Michigan students can now study science in the great outdoors

As part of the KBS K-12 Partnership with local school districts, the Kellogg Biological Station Long-term Ecological Research (KBS LTER) program has developed an on-site science activity that has quickly become a staff favorite: an activity trail for elementary students highlighting KBS LTER research on sustainable agriculture.

The KBS K-12 Partnership goals include enhancing the content and delivery of the Michigan K-12 science curriculum and promoting improved science teaching by providing teachers with in-depth exposure to current ecology topics.

At the Agriculture & Ecology Student Activity Trail, these goals are realized as students learn how scientists seek ways to help make working farms profitable and good for Michigan’s water, soil, air, and wildlife habitat. Working with K-12 Partnership teachers, LTER has developed an interactive student activity guide that leads students through the trail stations and teaches them about agriculture, ecology, and how to do science. Each of the 15 lessons meet Michigan’s teaching standards. The 15 lessons are located along a one-mile hiking trail that circles through agricultural, successional forest, and prairie habitats. The trail is located at the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary (12685 East C Ave.
Augusta, MI 49012).

Elementary students count insects on a 'sticky trap' as part of the LTER Student Activity Trail.

Elementary students count insects on a ‘sticky trap’ as part of the LTER Student Activity Trail. Photo credit: C. McMinn

Rebecca Drayton, a secondary middle school science and math teacher at Gobles Middle/High School, is a part of the KBS K-12 Partnership. She helped create the activities for the trail, and she couldn’t be more thrilled to see the opening of the activity trail this year.

“The student activity trail is perfect to take in the beautiful scenery and discover the ins and outs of what it means to be a scientist,” said Drayton.

Based on teacher input, an accompanying teacher’s guide with background information and additional activities for the classroom has also been created. The activity booklet and teacher’s guide are available free for download at http://lter.kbs.msu.edu/who-we-help/k-12-educators/. The activities have been tailored to meet kindergarten through fifth grade, although much of the information could be used with students of higher grades as well. Homeschooling groups and student clubs (for example, 4-H or Girl Scouts) are also welcome to utilize the trail.

Trained KBS volunteers lead the students through the activity trail. Teachers can help guide the experience by choosing which stations their class will participate in and by doing pre- and post-tour activities in the classroom.

“It is wonderful to see the children being young scientists. They love exploring, discovering, and doing things that ‘real scientists’ do,” said Joelyn de Lima, a KBS volunteer who helped develop the activities and leads groups of students along the trail.

The activity trail costs $1 dollar per student, which includes an activity booklet each student can take home. While visiting KBS, classes are also welcome to explore the Bird Sanctuary (for a small fee). Contact the Bird Sanctuary office at tours@kbs.msu.edu or 269-671-2510 to schedule your tour at least two weeks in advance with an experienced KBS volunteer. More information can be found at the KBS LTER website http://lter.kbs.msu.edu/who-we-help/k-12-educators/.

KBS volunteers learn the 'water cycle dance', part of the KBS LTER Student Activity Trail.

KBS volunteers learn the ‘water cycle dance’, part of the KBS LTER Student Activity Trail. Photo credit: J.E.Doll