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Local educators net grants for hands-on nature learning

ADDISON COUNTY — Last fall Addison County educators were invited to participate in the Otter Creek Audubon Society (OCAS) Environmental Education Grant program. Teachers were encouraged to develop proposals that would give their children opportunities for hands-on learning out in nature. Sixteen teachers from 13 Addison County schools applied, requesting a total of $8,757. Although that amount far exceeded the budget, OCAS was able to fund $4,500 toward providing 478 students with enriching outdoor learning experiences. Grants ranged from $200 to $600.
Here’s a look at what these students are looking forward to in the year ahead.
•  Addison Central School: First-and 2nd-graders will travel to Huntington, visiting the Birds of Vermont Museum and participating in the “Spring Discovery” program at Audubon Vermont. Students will follow up their field trip by starting a school pollinator and seed garden.
•  Bridge School: All students participate in the Trout in the Classroom program, in which they raise brook trout from eggs to the fry stage. Their grant funds will pay for transportation to the Salisbury Fish Hatchery.
•  Bristol Elementary School: Both the 1st and 3rd grades will participate in the “All About Birds” program at Audubon Vermont, as well as visit the Birds of Vermont Museum. Stations along wooded trails give ample chances for exploration.
•  Lincoln Community School: New to the OCAS grants program, this school will take their 5th and 6th graders aboard the Melosira research vessel for the UVM Lake Champlain Live program. Students will learn about water quality, watersheds, career opportunities and human impact issues.
•  Mary Hogan Elementary: Three 1st grade classes will enjoy a live animal visit from VINS. They’ll learn first hand about adaptations through watching the raptors and handling the various preserved wings, feet, skulls, etc.
•  Mt. Abe Union Middle School: Eighth graders will learn about the big cats of Vermont as part of their endangered species unit. Grant funds will go toward a presentation and tracking day by renowned tracker Susan Morse.
•  Quarry Hill School: This pre-school has a large pine tree in their play yard. A platform will be built into its base — just right to be a child-sized bird nest or a bird blind.
•  Ripton Elementary: The Southern Vermont Natural History Museum will bring a live turtle and an owl to visit the younger grades. The presentation will focus on how an animal’s structure helps it to survive in the natural world.
•  Salisbury Community and Otter Valley Union High School: This exciting collaboration between two schools brings 4th graders and Moosalamoo high school students together for two hikes along the Long Trail. Each hike represents different zones of vegetation, giving students a chance to compare habitats, flora and fauna and history of place. The Rutland County Audubon Society will co-fund this multi-age learning experience.
•  Shoreham Elementary: “Let’s Go Fishing Vermont” is a group that will teach after-schoolers water ecology, fishing ethics and water conservancy as they learn to fish with practice rods. Funds will purchase the rods; the group’s instruction is free. Grades 3-6 will visit the new Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area’s visitor center and trails, learning about stewardship, climate change impact and migration. The hope is that the students will later bring their families to this local nature center.
•  Vergennes Union Elementary: A fall field trip will be all about insects when 1st graders visit Audubon Vermont. They’ll learn about insect life cycles, habitat impact, diversity and how birds and insects are connected. This is a new school to the OCAS grant program.
•  Weybridge Elementary: Grades 5 and 6 will participate in Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s full-day paddling ecology class. This excellent on-water experience focuses on water quality, watershed issues and the fish/food web — along with providing students with a unique canoeing experience.
•  Wren’s Nest Forest Preschool: OCAS was unable to fund their hoped-for Abenaki storytelling and tracking event. However, grant funds will go toward nature-based supplies (field guides, outdoor gear, etc) to aid in the school’s mission of “getting kids outside.”
OCAS enthusiastically applauds the excellent work of these Addison County teachers as they strive to provide their students with exceptional outdoor learning experiences. Anyone wishing to support the Environmental Education Grants program is encouraged to contribute to the OCAS Bird-a-thon, held yearly in May.

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