By Elaine George
Sixth grade students from Tucker County and Harman were recently hosted at “Wild School” by Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge staff and Friends of the 500th volunteers. Wild School engages students with our area’s natural environment.
Since 2005, Wild School students have practiced archery, planted seedlings, studied frog eggs, and gotten up close and personal with West Virginia’s majestic raptors. These are just a few of the activities offered in the process of learning the role of red spruce forests, migration, hunting and fishing and other topics important to the Tucker County highlands.
2016’s Wild School topic was stream ecology. CVNWR staff and F500th volunteers visited each school – Tucker Valley, Davis-Thomas, and Harman – twice to discuss riparian zones, watersheds, and other aspects of stream ecology. Then, on April 28, ninety-five students and their teachers came to CVNWR to get firsthand interaction and reinforcement of the topics. Students came prepared to visit activity stations on Idleman’s Run. However, thunderstorms threatened so all stations – water testing, macroinvertebrates, brook trout, tree planting, stream restoration, and streamside ecology – were held inside Refuge buildings.
Instructors noted that students were enthusiastic and participated well at each station. Neil Gillies of the Cacapon Institute stated “these students were more engaged than any I’ve ever had”. Karlie Thompson of Davis-Thomas said she liked it all, “Going outside and finding the different habitats that animals can live in!” When asked his favorite activity, Tucker Valley’s Dylan Cool quickly responded “Fly fishing. I’ve never done it before”.
Sarah Fletcher, F500th volunteer, noted “Wild School is different every year and I learn at least one new thing every year!”
CVNWR Project Leader Ron Hollis stated that “Teaching children about conservation ecology and everything that the Refuge stands for is of utmost importance. We hope they’ll share the same message with their parents, friends and, someday, with their own children”. Hollis repeatedly reminded students that CVNWR is their land, for their use and enjoyment.
In addition to CVNWR staff and F500th volunteers, Wild School was supported by Canaan Valley Institute, Trout Unlimited, WV Department of Natural Resources, WV Department of Environmental Protection, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Cacapon Institute.