Third-grader Amy Ibarra was on a wildlife scavenger hunt when she spotted the frog.
“Un rana! Un rana!” she yelled, using the Spanish word for frog. The cry taken up by her partner Liana Schaefer. The pair’s fellow Garfield Elementary School students gathered around and they watched the frog until it hopped back to cover near a stream.
The moment came Thursday during a field trip offered for the school by the Institute for Applied Ecology, the Marys River Watershed Council and the Greenbelt Land Trust at the trust’s Bald Hill Farm property. Although the organizations have annually taken local elementary schools to the property for outdoor learning field trips, Thursday’s outing was the first time the group brought in volunteers who could offer lessons in Spanish.
Students on the trip did lessons studying the soil in an oak savanna area and compared it to soil in a riparian area. They also did some restoration planting work and the scavenger hunt.
Ruben Sandoval, a third-grade teacher at Garfield, one of the Corvallis School District’s two dual Spanish and English immersion elementary schools, said the moment with the frog was an excellent experience for students because they have been studying frogs in class.
“We got to see in action what we’ve been learning in the classroom,” he said.
Sandoval said having the science field trip with lessons in Spanish was valuable because it gives students exposure to the language. Even taking measurements during some of their data collection was valuable, he said, because it made students practice their numbers.
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Kathleen Westly, education and restoration project manager for the watershed council, said the organizations sought out Spanish-speaking experts to be volunteers for the field trip, and a repeat visit for the school planned for May, because it meets the school’s needs.
“(Having science lessons in Spanish) communicates that these concepts, these careers, are not just for English speakers,” she said.
Westly said the groups brought in about 14 to 15 volunteers and while not all were Spanish speakers, each station had a Spanish-speaking lesson leader. Westly said the organizations recruited Oregon State University students, OSU Extension faculty and United State Forest Service personnel.
Westly said the program, which includes classroom lessons put on by the partner organizations in the fall, is also being offered to Adams and Mountain View elementary students this year. Next year it will be offered for Garfield again and Lincoln Elementary School, the other dual immersion elementary in the district.
Westly said the program is funded by about $35,000 in grants, and the organizations that provide the grants, the Gray Family Foundation, Willamette Habitat Restoration and Corvallis Evening Garden Club, like promoting diversity through having lessons in Spanish.
Amy, who first spotted the frog, said she liked the field trips because she got to see so much, like a deer footprint.
“I had never seen an animal footprint before,” she said.
Liana, who had been working with Amy on the scavenger hunt, said they got to learn a lot about how nature works.
“I think field trips in nature are always fun,” she said.
Anthony Rimel covers education and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.