LSSI, Chassell elementary students take A Walk in Our Back Yard
CHASSELL — The Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative (LSSI) and Chassell Elementary School have partnered the past two years for a project called A Walk in Our Backyard.
The purpose of the 2017-19 project has been to reclaim an underutilized nature trail leading to, and around, the outdoor classroom, enhancing opportunities for students and the community. A second goal has been to develop a second trail, which will be interpreted by students, who will have learned of plants, animals and other organisms of the trail.
Lloyd Wescoat said teachers, students, and community members have worked hard this fall to improve the trail. Wescoat is the K-12 Education Programmer at the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative in the Center for Science and Environmental Outreach Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Technological University.
First graders were rewarded with a ski along the trail recently, which was the first time many of them used cross-country skis. Other grade level students are eager for the same experience, Wescoat said.
“There are a lot of schools doing LSSI projects, doing grants,” said Chassell Elementary School Teacher, Amanda Andress, “but this is kind of like new to Chassell.”
The outdoor classroom was not new, she said. It was established some years ago, but had become overgrown and needed some care.
“So, this fall, we set up a work bee one Saturday, and we had — I don’t know — 50-60 parents and students come,” said Andress. “We raked and got a free load of wood chips donated, so we put in a wood chip floor.”
In addition to raking and placing the wood chips, students and parents also worked on trail maintenance and grooming, Wescoat said, building on the work that had been done earlier by high school students.
Chassell Schools is a K-12 building, said Andress, and she visited the wood shop on her breaks to “keep piling projects on them.” Currently, they are constructing benches to be installed in the spring. The benches will provide seating for students.
Signs and sign holders are also being created, Andress said, enabling students and classes to each own part of the classroom, part of the trail, and part of the forest, allowing each one to explain what types of habitats or ecosystems are in each part of the project.