If you drove by 100 Acre Park recently you may have seen rabbits, salamanders, deer, cardinals, chipmunks and spiders photographing, writing, observing, graphing and exploring nature. No, it wasn't the actual animals doing all this activity, but teams of Ring Elementary School second- and third-graders taking part in the Chautauqua Nature Project, an interdisciplinary unit. Kim Austin's, Sue Atkins', Marcie Centi's, Heidi Maggio's, Katie Sloglund's and Melissa Yost's students walked to the park discover local nature.
''We were looking for a way to get students out of the classroom and see nature firsthand,'' said the teachers. ''It was wonderful to see the students get really excited about their discoveries. We were amazed by some of the beautiful photographs the students took, their insightful writing observations and how they really took ownership of their discoveries.''
The project, which incorporates English Language Arts, science, math and art is the first in a series of units during the four seasons including a trip to Roger Tory Peterson Institute in the winter, Jamestown Audubon Society in the spring and back to 100 Acre Lot at the end of the school year for summer.
Ring Elementary School second-grader Jocef Laboy-Alvira finds a creative angle to photograph a mushroom at 100 Acres Park.
The first trip included six stations that students rotated through. In the first station, students used digital cameras to capture their own unique perspectives of nature. Students completed a nature journal in the second station writing their observation from the day. In the third station, ''Oh Deer!'' students learned more about deer populations and how the environment affects the population positively or adversely. Students played the parts of either deer or environmental concerns such as water and graphed the results in the change in deer population.
''I liked playing 'Oh Deer,''' said Ring Elementary School student Natalie Reinhardt. ''We could really see what happens to the deer population when there isn't enough to eat or there is a natural disaster. Deer need food, water and shelter to survive and we saw what happened when they didn't have one or more of these in their environment.''
Students became predator and prey preparing for the winter using physical activity in the fourth station. In the fifth station, students determined the answer to a mystery animal and then created a healthy trail mix. In the last station, Jamestown Audubon Society Educator Jeff Tome took students on an exploratory hike to see nature in action.
''I loved the nature walk because we saw cool stuff like a baby salamander and learned about animals' life cycles," said Ring Elementary School student Drew Carlson. ''It is really interesting to do something like this because we get out of the classroom and you actually get to see it in real-life instead of just in a book.''
The Jamestown School Forest Board, BOCES Center and Roger Tory Peterson Institute help fund the trips. The students will hold a culminating performance of all they learned throughout the year at a school assembly.