Glendalough becomes outdoors classroomPublished 12:00pm Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Glendalough State Park was the place to be as several Battle Lake classes enjoyed a beautiful fall morning enthusiastically participating in learning activities. Students in 5th grade, 7th grade, and 9th grade recently converged at the park for instruction in math, science, and physical education
As part of the district’s strategic plan, Battle Lake is piloting several unique educational opportunities at Glendalough. With the park’s location only minutes from the school, an opportunity was available to expose students to a fresh, invigorating approach to learning that was too good to pass up.
The idea was to develop scientific reasoning, data analysis, and problem solving skills among students through experiential learning within the context of environmental education. Through an innovative agreement with the park, the school also intends to utilize the resources at Glendalough as a natural extension of the classroom. Initial results of this endeavor appear to be very promising.
Half of the fifth grade students were observed eagerly receiving a math lesson on graphing coordinate points in the Trail Center from instructor Stacy Lundquist. When questioned about whether they enjoyed learning at Glendalough State Park, the students nearly took the roof off the building with their excited cheers’ The other half of fifth grade was busy walking a nature trail looking for evidence of organisms interacting with the surrounding environment. Students made observations and utilized scientific inquiry as they surveyed the ecosystem around them. Students were transformed into intrepid explorers as they earnestly searched for the next big discovery that could be proudly shared with classmates and teacher Jean Dirckx.
In the meantime, the seventh grade students were involved in an interactive lesson investigating the relationship of food, water, shelter, habitat, predators, and hunting on the population dynamics of whitetail deer. The lesson was designed to utilize both math skills and to develop an understanding of the forces that impact wildlife in our area. It was an activity that Park Manager, Jeff Wiersma, had available that seemed an excellent match with the school’s learning goals and objectives set by instructors Jodi and Dave Himmelspach. After the lesson was over and the students were asked what they had learned, Jake Trosdahl stated, “Deer hunters really don’t make much of an impact on deer populations.” Asked what they thought about coming out to Glendalough, students enthusiastically responded, “Awesome!”
Ninth grade students were able to take in the crisp fall air and scenic beauty of the park as they embarked on a 3.5 mile hike along the Annie Battle Trail. Dan Peterka and Steve Bradsteen supervised the trek as part of their physical education classes. At the end of the hike, they sat in small groups beneath the oaks and maple trees quietly engaged in conversation or simply enjoying the peace of nature while awaiting the arrival of the bus that would take them back to school. Lauryn Kugler appeared to echo the sentiments of many when she said, “We should do this more often!”
As this pilot project continues its positive reception by both staff, students, and park officials, it appears very promising that this unique and inspiring partnership between Battle Lake Public School and Glendalough State Park will leave a lasting educa-tional impression on the district’s students!