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A staff from the Ochoco National Forest Service shares a lesson with students about the kinds of trees in the forest.
Smiles were abundant among elementary school students Thursday, as Ochoco Creek Park came alive with hands-on learning activities hosted by the Ochoco National Forest Service.
The annual event “Fin, Fire, and Feather,” once again brought opportunities for students to learn about the natural world around them.
Elementary students in grades one through three, who come from public, private, and home-schools in Crook County, all participated in the event, with approximately 650 students in all. This annual Forest Service program provides kids with an exciting introduction to the wonders all around them in the Central Oregon outdoors.
“Each year, when we return from the park to brainstorm for a follow-up writing activity, I can’t record fast enough to keep up with all the ideas and information they want to share about what they have learned at each station,” commented Cecil Sly Elementary School Principal Jim Bates. “Every child has a different favorite activity, and all of them come away with a new awareness and appreciation of the complexities in and of nature.”
He said the kids love going to the event, and the Forest Service has done an excellent job catering to the interest level of each grade.
“I must admit, I love going, too,” Bates added.
Students engaged in interactive, hands-on activities at numerous stations, each aimed at teaching kids a different aspect of how natural processes work, as well as learning about the plants, animals, and fish that inhabit the forest and streams in Central Oregon. In a fun-filled environment, participants learned about the salmon life cycle, stream ecology, wildlife habitat, wildfires, geology, weeds, and other aspects of the forest ecosystem. They also learned forest safety skills, met some live critters, and went away with a renewed awareness of nature.
“I think it’s wonderful for students to get the chance to engage in this kind of ‘hands-on,’ experiential education,” remarked Ochoco Elementary School Principal David Robinson. “These are the events you remember years later about your time in school. These types of learning experiences promote deep understanding and long-term retention of information and concepts. They create excitement about learning and make it easier to transfer academic understanding to ‘real life,’ and vice versa.”
Volunteer students from the Crook County Middle School Leadership class were also involved in creating and assisting with the educational stations.
According to Joan Martin, event co-coordinator and fisheries technician for the Ochoco National Forest, “Fin, Fire, and Feather” provides knowledge and tools about conservation and safety that kids can use when they visit the forest with their families. She said that it has the potential to inspire and shape their futures.
Martin remarked, “As a child, I participated in an event similar to “Fin, Fire and Feather,” and it had a direct influence on choosing my career path.”
“Fin, Fire, and Feather” is an educational outreach program of the Ochoco National Forest. Partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State Parks, Crook County Parks and Recreation, Crook County School District, Crook County Soil and Water Conservation District, Crook County Search and Rescue, Crooked River Weed Management Area, Crooked River Watershed Council, Trout Unlimited, K.D. Payne, Central Oregon Fire Management Service, and the Ochoco and Deschutes National Forests.
For more information, contact Joan Martin at 541-416-6402.