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Five classes of third-grade students from Corvallis schools took field trips to Bald Hill Farm this week.

The students planted native species, did water-quality testing and collected aquatic insects, all relatively common field-trip activities.

But what made this trip a little different is that many of those students already had some advanced experience in those subjects, thanks to activities put on by their teachers. Those teachers, in turn, received training on how to do those lessons through a workshop put on by the Institute for Applied Ecology and the Marys River Watershed Council last summer.

Stacy Moore, program director for the institute’s ecological education programs, said the workshop, which gave 16 teachers training in doing science lessons in the outdoors, has resulted in the trained teachers doing a lot of outdoor activities in their classes.

“The workshop project with the teachers this summer has been a complete success,” she said.

For example: Gerhard Behrens, a third-grade teacher at Adams Elementary School who brought his class to Bald Hill on Thursday, said the workshop gave him the confidence to do water-quality testing and macroinvertebrate collection with his class at a stream at Adams. Some of the classes on the field trips at Bald Hill, which took place Tuesday through Thursday, grew lupine and milkweed to plant at the site.

Moore said the background students get through their lessons before they go to field trips like this allow them to get more out of the experience.

“They get to study it in the classroom and they get to get their hands dirty and see it in real life,” she said.

Behrens said in addition to doing water testing and macroinvertebrate sampling, students in his class got to collect macrinvertebrates in water samples brought into the classroom. So the students got practice at actually going science before heading out on the field trip.

“If it’s the first time they do it, the novelty takes over. If it’s the second or the third time they understand how important it is,” he said.

Saanvi Nomula, an 8-year-old from Adams, said her class studied the water cycle before the field trip.

“We get to see it in real life instead of just studying,” she said. “Seeing it in real life helps you understand more.”

Alexander Orr, a 9-year-old from Adams, said going on field trips like this helps him learn.

“You’re really experiencing it,” he said. “It makes it easier to learn a lot more.”

Moore said that while Bald Hill is near to home for the students, the field trips this week marked the first time many of them got to the area. She added that she hopes to encourage families to come out to see the work the classes did through a guided walk the institute is putting on in May as a part of Natural Areas Celebration Week. For a listing of local events taking place during the week, visit http://bit.ly/1hT5LVe.

The field trips this week were put on through a collaboration between the Institute for Applied Ecology, the Corvallis School District, the Marys River Watershed Council, the Greenbelt Land Trust, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Sea Grant’s StreamWebs Program.

Anthony Rimel can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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