Wonders of nature

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- A group of St. Mary's students got an opportunity to explore the wonders of nature firsthand on Thursday with a trip to Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve.
Lisa Frucci's first grade class and Dare Soley's kindergarten class travelled to the Niles-Buchanan nature center for a day of pond exploration.
Soley's class has been learning about the characteristics of different animals and their habitats. She said having an opportunity to learn about science with a hands-on activity gives the students a better understanding of what they have already learned in class.
Fernwood naturalist Wendy Jones said exposing kids to nature at a very young age can have a tremendous impact on the development of that child.
She also pointed out that many of the kids who visit Fernwood through field trips might not otherwise be exposed to opportunities for nature exploration.
After a short educational presentation on what the students might find in Fernwood's ponds, the classes went outside and used small nets to search for signs of life in the pond ecosystem.
Fernwood naturalist Jan Ferris took the kindergarten students to a small pond area near the entrance of the nature center.
The students retrieved snail shells, leeches, tadpoles and a variety of insects with their nets.
The young children reached into the pond and then ran excitedly to Ferris to report their findings. They emptied the nets into a large bucket and Ferris told them exactly what it was that they had discovered.
Jones accompanied the first graders at a larger pond in the heart of Fernwood.
She said the students had a really good day of exploration and found a variety of life in the pond. Some of the different species collected by the first graders were crawfish, a baby blue gill, tadpoles, leeches, a water scorpion and a giant waterbug.
When the classes were done exploring the ponds, the naturalists explained the characteristics of each animal and insect that they had found and then released them back into the ponds.
Frucci said having actual contact with nature is something that the students will remember for a long time to come.

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