Area students have been given the opportunity to interact with nature on a personal level.
This is because the Jamestown Audubon Society is in the midst of hosting its spring nature walks for elementary students from several area districts during the months of May and June.
For students participating in the tours, it is an opportunity to experience a variety of species flora and fauna, both native and foreign to Chautauqua County, via guided tours with a naturalist through parts of the Audubon Center and Sanctuary. The idea behind the tours is to provide students with comprehensive, firsthand experiences that coincide with the curriculum that they are receiving in school.
Students of Kim Larson McQueen’s Ring Elementary School kindergarten class explore inside a birdhouse at the Jamestown Audubon Society during a Wednesday afternoon nature walk.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
"We don't take them all over the grounds, because there's so much to see in such a short distance," said Jeff Tome, senior naturalist. "And the goal is to give them a positive experience outside, where they're learning along with the things they're learning in school. But they're also exploring and getting hands on experiences and finding out new things, as opposed to just reading (about) it in a book."
Tome said that students come from school districts as far away as Columbus, Pa., and Fredonia to partake in the tours. Two walks of approximately 1 to two hours in length are offered almost every weekday throughout May and June.
"It's pretty tightly scheduled because (the students) are on a rigid curriculum, so they only have so much time to stop by," he said.
Each walk allows for approximately 40 students, and at 80 students a day, the Audubon will see about 4,000 area students each spring.
On Wednesday, 39 kindergarten students from Ring Elementary School visited for the afternoon session, which ran from noon to 1:30 p.m. The students were split into four groups of nine to 10 kids, with a different naturalist guiding each group.
One of Ring Elementary's kindergarten teachers who accompanied the students was Kim Larson McQueen, who said she has participated in these walks for most of her 30 years with Jamestown Public Schools.
"(The tours are) wonderful because there are a lot of kids in Jamestown that literally don't leave their street," she said. "And (they can) come out here and find out about nature, and appreciate nature. And the people here are so good about explaining, and being patient and teaching (the students) what they need to know so that they can go further than just where they live."
Prior to the Ring Elementary students' visit, Wednesday's morning session saw a group of fourth-grade students from Southwestern Elementary School.
"This morning's program was all about food chains," said Tome. "These kids are learning about food chains in school, and they're learning about pollenation, and so we kind of focused the topics around those things. And as we walked, we explored those things-but in a hands-on way-so they actually got to feel things and touch things and hold things."