Nature Trail Days move to Hebron Elementary School

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Oct. 15, 2013
Hebron Elementary School students investigate insects during Nature Trail Days at the school on Oct. 7.
Hebron Elementary School students investigate insects during Nature Trail Days at the school on Oct. 7.

As Nature Trail Days moved from Gilead Hill School to Hebron Elementary School on Oct. 7 and 8, there were slight variations in the lessons presented to the students. As at Gilead Hill, the two-day Hebron Elementary event provided an opportunity for all of the students, grades three through six, to rotate through a number of stations on the nature trail behind their school. Four of the stations remained the same (with a focus on insects, plants, mammals and birds), and were manned by many of the same presenters. The focus - preparing for winter - remained the same. But the Hebron Elementary event added one additional station to the lineup. A native American station, manned by Windham-area Chief Eagle Feather, focused on the fall and winter habits of the area’s original woodland inhabitants. And some of the lessons were tailored to appeal to the more sophisticated intellectual abilities of the older students.

At the insect station, Bernie Noonan passed around a small container filled with a variety of caterpillars. As the students studied the brown and black wooly bear caterpillars wriggling their way through the foliage, Noonan challenged them with an educational game. “We’re going to pretend that they’re eating contaminated vegetation,” he said, adding that contamination could come from pesticides, lawn fertilizers, or any number of other human sources. 

Holding up a photo of a praying mantis (which he identified as the Connecticut state insect), Noonan provided a very brief overview of the food chain. If each caterpillar ate one unit of contamination, and each mantis ate two caterpillars, “How many units of contamination would each mantis consume?” he asked. Noonan carried the query up through the food chain, through a wild turkey to a hunter. The students concluded that a hunter, if he ate the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, would end up consuming four units of contamination. “That’s why it’s important that we pay attention and make sure that our environment is nice and clean, because we eat some of these animals,” said Noonan.

Nature Trail Days have been coordinated for many years at Hebron Elementary School by Hebron resident Carolyn Aubin. The event was more recently extended to Gilead Hill School. “I so much appreciate all of the volunteers that give up their time to make these events so successful, especially the station leaders who have helped every year,” said Aubin. “Al Petell, Tom Gauthier and Bernie Noonan have been trained by the DEEP and are certified master wildlife educators who bring a wealth of information to our students. Dorry Palmer, Marie Kuper and Chief Eagle Feather have also run stations each year, bringing their unique talents and enthusiasm to our program. It is these wonderful people and the escort volunteers that make the nature trail experiences so enjoyable for the children,” said Aubin.

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