After nearly two years without in-person field trips, education staff at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve welcomed their first K-12 friends back to the reserve in September and October 2021. Although some aspects of this fall’s field trip season looked different with masked visitors, fewer groups onsite at a time, back-up dates for easier rescheduling, the essential parts of the learning experience remained unchanged. Students ran around the prairie sweep-netting insects, taking soil cores and measuring air temperature. They came up with hypotheses, built graphs and debated their findings. Groups trekked out to Cedar Bog Lake to experience Minnesota’s diverse habitat types and learn about scientific and natural history. Pods of learners toured long-term experiments and chatted with scientists about their career paths. In total, more than 1,500 K-12 students and their teachers got a chance to be back out in nature learning about science from scientists.
There were many highlights during the fall field trip season. MN GreenCorps member Savanna Henning rejoined Cedar Creek’s team for a second service term, this time leading field trips in the Community Readiness and Outreach track. Field station staff ran three days of a pilot field trip offering with the U of MN’s Raptor Center, which provided students with a chance to learn about human impacts on ecosystems through the lens of birds of prey – and a chance to meet some live raptor ambassadors!
Cedar Creek also hosted students from Jackson Middle School in Champlin for the fourteenth year and from Cambridge Intermediate School for the eleventh year. They also welcomed new friends from Howard Lake-Waverly-Winstead Middle School and St. Peter Claver School. Volunteers from the Cedar Creek community, including Master Naturalists, graduate students and postdocs, helped put together these numerous programs.
The Cedar Creek education staff is especially grateful to the individual donors, foundation gifts and National Science Foundation supplement funding for making this field trip season possible. The majority of their K-12 visitors needed financial support this year to cover rising busing costs and field trip fees after the pandemic impacted budgers, and they were pleased to be able to make field trips possible for all who asked with help from our community!
Fifth graders from Cambridge Intermediate School collected insects in the prairie and forest, sorted them by type, and used their collection to build a "jar" graph with naturalist Megan Lauzon.
Eighth graders from Jackson Middle School spent their field trip studying human impacts on ecosystems through the lens of raptors, and then were treated to a visit from a bald eagle.
High school students from Wellstone International High School worked alongside Cedar Creek staff and scientists to collect insects and basic ecological data along a series of transects.