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Fifth-Graders Learn to Conserve Nature at Field Day

Published: Friday, September 23, 2022

Whitley County Soil and Water Conservation District hosted the 39th annual conservation field days for the fifth-grade students from Mary Raber, Little Turtle, Northern Heights, Coesse and South Whitley schools at the Whitley County 4-H Fairgrounds on Sept. 7 and 8.

This year, seven different topics were featured to give the fifth-grade students a better understanding of soil conservation, wildlife, water safety, water quality and forestry, the various types of things that could be 4-H projects and a visit to the Ag Learning Museum.

The event takes two days to get all 282 fifth grade students through the program and this is done with the assistance of the Columbia City FFA chapter members.

The FFA members serve as guides for the teachers to help with getting the fifth-grade classes from stop to stop and then assist with serving the hot dog and chips lunch to everyone.

The second day of the field days, after all the presentations are done and lunch is over, the FFA members also put all the tables and chairs away and sweep the 4-H building clean.

Art Franke, NRCS district conservationist, Jeremy Palmer, NRCS district conservationist and Jamie Perry, The Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts urban soil specialist with the demonstrated importance of having ground cover, such as grass, to keep your soil from eroding away.

They discussed the different soil layers and explained how powerful water can be if it is not controlled by filter strips and waterways.

They also explained how some erosion problems can be corrected and why it is important to keep topsoil in place and not in streams and rivers.

Clay Geiger brought with him a collection of animals' skins, bones, and stuffed animals some native to Indiana and some not. He explained to the students what several animals need to survive, such as types of food and habitat. He explained why some wildlife animals are beneficial and why some are not. He also talked about how minks had been raised to make coats for women. Now the animals are protected, and their skins aren't used for coats any longer.

Geiger had a mounted largemouth bass he shared with the students to explain how many fishermen fish for enjoyment and will release the fish they have caught back into the water.

He talked about the damage a group of wild turkeys can do to a farmer's corn field after it has been planted and how the turkeys get the scent of the newly planted corn and follow right down the row eating the corn seed before it has a chance to sprout and grow.

Levi Knach, conservation officer with the Indiana Department of Resources brought one of their boats and different types of life vests. He explained that a properly fitting life vest would save someone's life compared to one that was too large for a person who might slip out of it once they were in the water.

He explained what they should do when they realize that someone is in the water and needs help.

There are all sorts of things in a boat that can be thrown, out to help the person, such as a fishing pole, which can be used to pull him to the boat if it he is within reach.

Todd Geiger, who is with the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service, played a computer game with the students. The classes were broken down into teams to see who could get the most answers correct concerning facts about Indiana and Whitley County.

He also talked about all the 4-H projects that you could have that didn't involve having some type of livestock.

There are projects such as cooking, collections, photography, gardening, sewing, bowling and more, that can be fair projects instead of sheep, pigs or cattle, which many people set think of as 4-H projects.

Jon Gotz, who is with the Whitley County SWCD, explained to the students the importance of keeping the water clean.

One of Gotz examples he had at the field day was 24 gallons jugs in a tower that represented how much precipitation that falls on one square foot of ground in a years' time.

Gotz also showed the students how to use pH test strips to find the acidity or alkalinity of the water. The pH strips are litmus paper that when dipped into a solution will change colors according to the amount of acid or alkaline the solution has.

Heath Hurst, ISDA handled the forestry stop. He brought with him examples of the different types of leaves from the different trees. He explained that some people raise trees much like some farmers raise corn and soybeans as a crop.

If a wooded area is properly handled, it can be a cash crop, but it will take years.

He showed that tree rings could be counted to see how many years old a tree is. The rings also showed if the tree has had to suffer through a dry year or if the tree got to grow through a good year because of the width of the ring.

He had the students go outside where they learned how to figure what the diameter of a tree was by measuring the circumference of the tree.

The fifth graders also got to visit the learning museum and this year's topic was Indian arrowheads. Harold Waugh and his wife Rita told the students about the arrowheads that they have collected over the years.

The Native Americans would make camp close to a river or some form of water. In these areas, the Waughs have found several arrowheads. They explain the different between the arrowheads on how they were formed and how they were used.

After the students had visited all the stops, they were served a lunch of hot dogs, chips, and cookies provided by the Whitley County SWCD and served with the help of the Columbia City chapter of FFA members.

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