The classroom got significantly larger for Coupeville Elementary School fourth graders Wednesday. In fact, it grew to approximately 86 acres.
Sixty students trekked 10 minutes by bus to Admiralty Inlet Preserve, protected and managed by Whidbey Camano Land Trust, for a day of hands-on lessons facilitated by Trust staff and volunteers. Taylor Schmuki, a Land Trust stewardship technician, with the help of science teacher Sarah Boin orchestrated the field trip.
The idea for the trip stemmed from Schmuki’s desire to engage children more through the Land Trust and Boin’s desire to engage children more with nature.
“The more kids know about the environment and the community … the better they are,” Boin said.
All year, the students learned about prairies, the endangered golden paintbrush plant and ecosystems. It just so happens, the Land Trust’s preserve includes some of the last remaining prairie on the island and is one of only 12 sites in the world where golden paintbrush occurs naturally.
Throughout the day, Land Trust staff and volunteers guided the children through six stations. The fourth graders learned about the native plant nursery, wildlife, trees, history, went on a walking tour of the prairie and performed a service project.
“I also believe that kids should give back,” Boin said of the service project.
Boin said fourth grade is a good age to start encouraging community service.
Schmuki said she appreciated the chance to teach the next generation of land stewards about the kind of work the Land Trust does and the ecosystems it’s protecting, which comprise “some of the coolest places you’ve been,” she said.
Wednesday, the children helped create “rings of life” around young trees to give them room to grow.
At least one group of students, while at the wildlife station, spotted a nearby bald eagle.
Heidi Lysene, who was one of those students, said seeing the eagle was particularly fun. But she liked “everything” about the field trip.
Schmuki said she also hopes the children’s excitement will transfer to their families and increase use of public lands such as the Admiralty Inlet Preserve.
The preserve includes old-growth Douglas fir trees, a loop trail, native plant nursery and the remnant prairie.