Sheryl Sotelo's fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from the Soldotna Montessori Charter School pose with refuge staff after completing their Winter Ecology field trip.
As I look out my office window, I see a parking lot of slush and lots of dirty colored snow. This time of year is not very pretty out, but spring is soon to arrive with the promise of warmer temperatures and abundant life.
While I look forward to the upcoming spring, I reflect on the past month of winter school field trips here at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. We had a successful season in which 332 local fourth- through sixth-grade students participated in either of our Wildlife in Winter or Winter Ecology field trips. I thought what better way to recap these field trips than to have a local class summarize their field trip experience for refuge notebook readers. This is what students Madeline Ransom and Phoebe Napolitano had to say:
Recently, our Soldotna Montessori class of fourth, fifth, and sixth graders took a field trip to the Kenai Wildlife Refuge. While we were there, we played a number of games that taught us about some of the challenges that Alaskan animals face during the winter. We also snowshoed down to the lake where we learned about food chains. We learned that if one piece of the food chain is missing, then it affects everything else that is part of that food chain.
Learning about the subnivean layer was also a large part of this trip. Do you know what the subnivean is? We learned that the subnivean layer is the layer beneath the snow where small rodents like shrews, mice and voles live. The subnivean layer is important to these animals for three reasons. It hides them from predators, there is buried food like grass and roots beneath the snow, and the snow provides them with warmth.
Humans and other animals impact the subnivean layer when they walk off trails causing the layer to be compacted. Small animals then have to come to the surface of the snow, exposing themselves to predators and cold temperatures.
Our entire class enjoyed this field trip. We all learned something new. Here are a few thoughts from fellow fourth-graders. Camilla said her favorite part was learning about the food chain. Marcus said he learned that it's hard to walk in snowshoes. Matti really liked learning about the subnivean layer. We went to the Wildlife Refuge last fall and the winter trip was just as exciting. It is interesting to be able to see how animals adapt and survive through different seasons.
Thank you to our teacher Mrs. Sotelo and all the parent volunteers. Big thanks to everyone at the refuge for letting us come and sharing their knowledge with us. We learned a bunch and hope to come back soon!
These field trips were not only fun and educational for the students, but also provided me a break from my computer and the snowshoeing helped work off the extra pounds of a lazy winter. As we store the snowshoes away for next year, we are beginning to take reservations for our spring field trips for kindergarten through sixth grade. Teachers, please contact Nicole Johnson at the refuge at 262-7021 if you are interested in scheduling a field trip for your class.
Maddy Ransom is a fifth grader at Soldotna Montessori Charter School. She lives in Kasilof and spends her summers at her family's setnet site. She enjoys walking on the beach, playing with her pets and swimming.
Phoebe Napolitano is a fifth grader at Soldotna Montessori Charter School. She lives near Kenai. She enjoys all sports, dancing, playing the guitar and listening to music.
Michelle Ostrowski is an interpretive park ranger at the refuge and has assisted with educational school groups since 1997.
Previous Refuge Notebook articles can be viewed on the refuge Web site at http://kenai. fws.gov/.
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