Fifth-graders fueled with science knowledge
The Mountain Research Station was filled with forestry facts, fire equipment and feathered friends last week when Haywood County’s fifth-graders took part in the annual Conservation Field Day.
During the field day, students learned about bees, forest fires, insects, minerals, the water cycle, soil, wildlife, air quality and the research station itself. This year marks the 32nd Conservation Field Day offered by the Soil and Water Conservation District, with a total of 560 students attending during a two-day span.
Students left wearing a “make it and take it” bracelet, with each bead representing a different aspect of the water cycle — green for plants, brown for soil, blue for water, clear for ice, burgundy for people and animals.
“The kids love it — I always get a bunch of thank you letters,” said Gail Heathman, education coordinator for the Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District. “It started out with high school kids, but at some point we decided that fifth-grade would be a good level to do it. The teachers seem to love it as much as the kids. You get to get out of the classroom and relax and enjoy it.”
During the field day, students were introduced to an owl, a hawk and a castrol. Park service rangers also introduced students to insects and genetics was discussed up in the barn loft. Students also found themselves dressing up for fire fighting with the forest service.
“We feel like it’s a way to teach the students a lot about the environment,” Heathman said. “And we feel like it helps the teachers — which is one of our goals.”
A popular favorite among the students was the mineral station, presented by Randall Beavers from the NCSU Minerals Research Lab. Beavers kept the students engaged while teaching them about the rocks people eat and the kind moms and grandma’s wear on their face.
“I liked the rocks and minerals because he talked about different kind of rocks and he was funny and made it fun,” said Ava Queen, a fifth-grader from Clyde Elementary. “He taught me that gum is made from fossilized fish poop. I also got to see a 15 million year-old shark tooth.”
Jared Haas from Clyde Elementary said his favorite part of field day was riding the tractor around the Mountain Research Station.
“It took us around the fields where the livestock graze,” Haas said, adding that he also learned a lot throughout the day. “I didn’t know that you can genetically improve a plant but we learned that in the barn. I also liked the rocks and minerals. I learned about what different rocks are and where they go in our everyday lives.”
Between students seeing how long they could hold their breath at the air quality, feeling different soil textures at the soil station, studying honeycombs at the bee station and pelts and skulls at the wildlife, the students likely were little tired as their buses drove away.
Heathman said Conservation Field Day was about having fun, adding that the resource experts who gave a total of 20 presentations over the two-day event always made it an enjoyable experience for the students.
Field Day presenters included Beavers; Christine O’Brien and Eric Romaniszyn with the Haywood Waterways Association; Bill Skelton, Haywood County Extension Director, Kathy Taylor, from the Haywood County Beekeepers; William Miller, Soil Scientist with N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services; Leslie Smathers, Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District; Blair Ogburn, Balsam Mountain Trust; Patrick Farrell, Wildlife Resources Commission; Keith Bamberger, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Air Quality and Will Morrow, Mountain Research Station.