Science outside

LAKE LINDEN – Lake Linden Elementary School fifth-graders got to learn more about their local environment and apply classroom knowledge in a real-world scenario at the Lake Linden disc golf course Friday afternoon.

Fifth-graders are helping to design a nine-hole addition to the existing nine-hole disc golf course at the Lake Linden campgrounds.

The addition is being funded through a grant from the Keweenaw Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council. The original course was funded by the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, which supervised Friday’s activities.

The day also marked the debut of new interpretive signs at the disc golf course explaining things such as the area’s mining history and local invasive species.

“People are going to come here to the disc golf course, so let’s teach them what they’re going to find when they’re here, and how they can be

stewards,” said Joan Chadde, Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative co-stewardship project advisor and education program coordinator for the Center for Science and Environmental Outreach at Michigan Technological University.

Friday afternoon, students were sitting with quadrants and clipboards recording the current state of the landscape.

Having plant coverage on the ground can ward off erosion, she told the students.

“When the rain drops come down, they hit bare soil, they carry soil with them,” Chadde told students. “If it hits a plant, that plant’s going to protect the soil.”

Friday’s activities were also being filmed by the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, which oversees the LSSI and seven other regional hubs in the state.

GLSI coordinator Mary Whitmore said they are hoping to get a document about the GLSI’s programs shown on PBS. The stewardship initiatives employ a strategy Whitmore called “place-based learning,” in which students can explore learning in various subject areas through community projects.

While people traditionally associate stewardship with science, Whitmore said, it can include math, English, graphic design, social studies and other skills.

“It can span all the subject areas in school,” she said.

Projects where students can see an application in their community are a highlight for students, and also invigorate teachers, Whitmore said.

“Even though there’s a lot of work for teachers to do … the kids get excited and they know it’s a great learning experience for them,” she said.

Lake Linden Village President Ed Fisher had visited high school students at the site the day before for a project and talked about the importance of getting the next generation involved in working for the community, Whitmore said.

“If we expect kids to be good stewards of the environment when they’re adults, we need to give them practice when they’re kids,” she said.

The day was a fun one for students.

Fifth-grader Peyton Reed said he liked “learning about nature and different types of plants.”

Fifth-grader Madison Trebel’s had drawn some of the life and landscape at the site, including small fish and trees by the water.

“It was fun seeing all the creatures and seeing what was going on,” she said.