HOUSTON, Alaska — A class from Big Lake Elementary School spent Thursday exploring their surroundings, on a field trip aimed at educating students about ecosystems in the areas where they live.
The weather was gloomy at Coho Creek, just outside Houston -- but the Big Lake Elementary students always see the bright side, even on the rainiest of days.
“It's fun to get the kids out of the classroom and do some teaching in the outdoors,” said Big Lake Elementary teacher Andy Mickelson. “And because this is their home, it's important that they know what's going on in it, in the back yard of where they live.”
The fifth-grade class spent the day studying the ecosystem at Coho Creek.
“When you can see it and touch it and help, say, plant a stream bank yourself, you're really understanding it and connecting it to yourself -- especially fish habitat,” said Catherine Inman with the Wasilla Soil and Water Conservation District.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game gave the conservation district permits to trap the salmon fry. The event gave students an up-close look at what's living under the water, and could wind up on the end of their fishing hookd someday.
“If you don't understand where your food is coming from or how you're connected to that whole chain of life, you don't understand why Alaska fisheries are so important -- that disconnect is really disturbing,” Inman said.
To understand how salmon end up on the dinner plate, these kids learn what's feeding the fish. Outfitted with hip waders and nets, the students scour the stream for the day's assignment.
“We have some groups searching for macro-invertebrates, which are food for salmon fry, so that we could tell if this is a healthy stream or not -- if fish will survive,” Mickelson said.
Roger Register owns the 20-plus acres the class visits on the field trip. This is the third year he's invited the class to Coho Stream.
“I bought this property 16 years ago, and I've just seen so much wildlife out here and been so blessed so abundantly, I just want to share what I've been blessed with with other people,” Register said.
After a few hours in the rain, the kids leave slightly damp and dirty, but with life lessons that will stick.
“Just to see them have such a good time while they're actually learning something.” Register said. “Just all the smiles, it just keeps going back to the kids having such a good time and being out here on my property, and having such a good time learning something.”
The Wasilla Soil and Water Conservation District helped organize the field trip. Last year, the organization was recognized nationally for its efforts to education students on fish habitat conservation.
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