Ice Age Trail Alliance’s program gets kids thinking about nature
Twenty-seven lucky fourth-graders from two Luck classrooms got to spend an October day in the woods recently as participants in the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s new Think Outside program.
The program is designed to foster hands-on nature experience, tie together fourth-grade curriculum with field experience, introduce students to glacial features, and provide healthy outdoor exercise for bodies and minds.
The one-day outing was preceded by an Alliance presentation to the classrooms of Paula Anderson and Tim Smyth. It primed students for the outdoors, with topics including the effects of advancing and receding glaciers on Wisconsin’s landscape, how the Ice Age National Scenic Trail allows Wisconsinites to get more familiar with the last Ice Age, and why one of only 11 national scenic trails is located in Wisconsin.
The program also provides a guide to geologic features, lesson plans and a recommended location to hike through glacial features. The Luck students hiked for about 3-1/2 miles through Straight Lake State Park, led by naturalist Barb Delaney.
“The students loved hiking on the esker,” Anderson said. “Many mentioned that it was so cool to actually see an esker in real life and not just in a picture.”
The students took a field trip to Interstate Park two weeks before their hike and learned about the trail at its western terminus. That followed classroom study of how glaciers shaped most of the state’s landscape. “It was really neat to see the students make the connections” among the classroom study, field trip and their hike,” Anderson said.
The Think Outside program’s goal is to expose 10,000 fourth graders in Wisconsin to the trail. The program expands the popular Saunters program of weeklong activities that local elementary school students have enjoyed each summer. The new program is funded by the National Park Foundation, and includes transportation reimbursement for participating classes.
The Ice Age Trail runs for more than 60 miles in Polk County, and more than 600 miles of a projected 1,000 miles of the trail have been built through Wisconsin.