Students new friends of PWLC [UPDATED]Published 10:57am Thursday, November 15, 2012 Updated 2:27pm Friday, November 16, 2012
Elementary school students have had the opportunity to learn at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center for several years, but for some students, a year or two at the PWLC hasn’t been enough.
A group of seventh and eighth graders decided to continue their involvement with the Prairie Wetlands and formed the Junior Friends of the Prairie Wetlands.
“As we go through years of children in the prairie science class, some kids wish they could have some more involvement at the learning center,” said David Ellis, Fish and Wildlife Instructional Systems Specialist and former prairie science class teacher.
The idea was sparked when some former prairie science class students were walking trails at the Prairie Wetlands with Ellis in June.
“They said they still wanted to be involved, and I said ‘You could volunteer,’” Ellis said. “One thing led to another, and about six of them signed up to be volunteers.”
The first time they came out to volunteer, the group spent the day cutting buck thorn, an invasive species, Ellis said.
“It was nothing glamorous,” he said.
Word spread about the volunteering, and kids kept coming back. By the end of the summer, there were about 17 seventh and eighth graders helping out at the PWLC, said Ellis.
The group wanted to have a name, and since the Friends of the PWLC was already an established volunteer organization, they decided to call themselves the Junior Friends of the PWLC.
“Whenever we need some extra help, we know we can count on them,” Ellis said. “It has been quite delightful to see the enthusiasm and to know we have another way of connecting with these former students. It gives us an opportunity to continue mentoring them and developing their skills.”
The students were more available during the summer, but many have continued to volunteer in their free time during the school year. The students came out on National Public Lands day and MEA weekend.
Some of the students might even receive a Volunteer Appreciation Pin at the annual Friends of the PWLC banquet for putting in at least 25 hours of volunteer work.
Students continue to join the group, and Ellis said he expects the Junior Friends of the PWLC to continue to grow.
“We’re keeping it simple,” he said. “We want to let the enthusiasm of young hearts and minds drive it forward.”