Fifth-graders learn from foresters about life and industry in the woods
Ball-capped and moving with purpose, Sam Ammodt called the short but sturdy stick in his hand his "Yoda stick." Just like a certain green Jedi from a swampy planet, Ammodt jabbed his walking stick into the trail with every plunge of his right foot.
Ball-capped and moving with purpose, Sam Ammodt called the short but sturdy stick in his hand his “Yoda stick.” Just like a certain green Jedi from a swampy planet, Ammodt jabbed his walking stick into the trail with every plunge of his right foot.
All around Ammodt on Tuesday, the other fifth-graders in Heidi Owens’ Piedmont Elementary School class enjoyed life with a stick in their hands, too.
It was that kind of day at Hartley Nature Center, where students were enjoying a 30th year outdoors in the fall thanks to the Lake Superior Chapter of the Minnesota Society of American Foresters. The lessons were disguised in green outback. Tall grasses lined earthen hallways, and forest clearings stood in for classrooms. People in the forest industry staffed stations across wild spots in the city - Lester and Chester parks, Spirit Mountain Recreation Area - to reach more than 750 fifth-grade students.
Troy Lindgren, a forester with the St. Louis County Land and Minerals Department, stood under a canopy of leaves at the head of one class. He talked about nature’s biggest tree hazard these days: porcupines.
“As a forester, they’re an animal I don’t really care for,” Lindgren said.
He described the porcupine as an animal the students probably knew as a danger to their dogs’ snouts. Additionally, they’re a hazard for trees.
“They do a lot of chewing, but they don’t chew a whole tree,” he said. “They can do a lot of damage.”
About porcupines climbing trees and gnawing branches, the teacher Owens said: “I didn’t know they did that.”
Ammodt planted his stick and talked about trading the classroom for an outdoors respite on one of the nicest weather days of the year.
“It’s really fun learning about the boreal forest,” he said. “It’s very interesting. I live in the city.”
The students learned that the boreal forests of the Northern Hemisphere are the world’s largest forest network, spanning a band across North America, Europe and all through Russia.
Lindgren called it a good public relations day for forestry, “because it gets kids out in the woods.”
Fifth-grader Vance Watson wondered why a large tree he and his grandfather know to be dead from a beetle infestation is still standing.
“Trees will stand dead for quite a while,” Lindgren said. “It’s the inner strength of the wood.”
Students went to one station where there was a portable sawmill. Felled logs were turned into raw lumber.
“We definitely want young people to understand these are all natural processes,” Lindgren said. “There’s good management in this area, and a lot of reforestation.”
The long-standing citywide event owes itself to a long list of participating organizations - those providing the day’s natural resource instructors as well as financial supporters. The events were organic, in that they took advantage of their given location’s best attributes.
At Hartley, many of Piedmont’s 60 fifth-graders clung to walking sticks as if it were in their nature.
“It’s a good group,” Owens said. “They’re on task. This keeps their attention.”