'Nature Trail Days' bring students into outdoor classroom

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Jun. 14, 2011
Hebron Elementary School student Ryan Young watches a caterpillar walk across his finger. Photos by Carolyn Aubin. - Contributed Photo

Hebron Elementary School held its fifth annual Nature Trail Days event on May 31 and June 1. The 2011 theme, “There’s No Place Like Home,” celebrated both animal homes and the homes of native American tribes. 

Students visited outdoor classrooms along the nature trail behind the school, learning how insects, birds, beavers and rodents build homes that provide them with shelter and protection. They also learned how indigenous tribes built shelters using materials gathered from the surrounding woodlands.

During the multi-day event, the 700 students (with their teachers) were led by more than 20 volunteers through five different centers. Tom Gauthier and Gayle Mulligan showed students how rodents and small animals make their homes. The kids got to see a mouse nest, learn the difference between a squirrel’s nest and a crow’s nest, and see a live chipmunk and garter snake up close.  

At the station manned by Don Grzybowski, Christina Vaiciulis and Suzanne Carey, children were given a lesson in birds and their nests. A special surprise at this station was a live baby sparrow that one of the volunteers had rescued and taken in for rehabilitation.

Al Pattell, Loretta McDonnell and Jenny Carpenter guided students inside a parachute designed to simulate the size of a beaver lodge. Students saw a real taxidermy beaver, trees bearing beaver teeth marks, beaver tracks and a beaver skull and hide.

Keith Albert, Julie Freer and Bernie Noonan taught students about insects and their homes. Students were shown insects such as praying mantis, paper wasps, and a tent caterpillar, and they were told how these critters find shelter.

At the native American outdoor classroom, students examined a full-sized wigwam built from saplings and grasses found in the area. Chief Eagle Feather, of the New England Coastal Schaghticoke tribe (Arthur Richardson), who led the instruction at this station, told stories and sang songs. Dorry Palmer assisted the chief as they showed native American artifacts to the children.

The wigwam was built the weekend before the event by a number of volunteers, overseen by Hebron resident Fred Brehant. Brehant has researched the construction of native woodland wigwams, and he guided the group in making the structure by bending saplings, tying them, and covering the outside of the structure with tied swamp grasses.

Numerous volunteers helped out during the Nature Trail Days event, keeping classes on schedule and guiding students along the trail. Trail Days was started by Hebron resident Carolyn Aubin, and has been sponsored for five years by the Hebron Elementary School P.T.A.

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