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These boots were made for exploring

Students in Wildlife Biology at Pittsburg High School now have access to two classrooms: one indoors, and one outdoors, thanks to a teacher grant from the USD 250 Foundation. 

“We have this natural area — this wetland — that was built several years ago, as well as the wooded and grassy areas surrounding it, that we can incorporate into our science curriculum,” said Steven Seeley, teacher. 

But students needed to be able to access it without getting shoes, socks, and pant legs wet. And, they needed to be able to see the birds more closely in order to identify them.

Thirty-two pairs of neoprene boots and a classroom set binoculars later — and a shelf to store it all on — and they’re ready to explore!

The natural area is to the east of the high school parking lot, just a short walk from Seeley’s indoor classroom. A wetland, or shallow body of water, is the perfect environment for students to catch sightings of shore birds, wood ducks, Canada geese, turtles, and amphibians. 

The wetland also provides a great lesson in habitats and ecology; wetlands act as a natural filter for water run-off from large parking lots like the one at the high school — run-off that likely is carrying pollutants and sediment.

As water flows into a wetland it encounters plants growing in and around it. This slows the water down on its way to larger water sources like creeks and rivers, making it less likely to cause erosion. And, the pollutants are absorbed by the roots of the plants, essentially cleaning the runoff before it becomes part of our groundwater supply.

Wetlands are among the most endangered ecosystems on the planet; fewer than half of this country’s original wetlands remain.

On one recent mild day, Seeley’s classes each took turns putting on the boots and heading to the wetland with trash bags to collect trash that had blown in over the last few months.

Noah Hodge, a sophomore, who was among them, said it’s one of his favorite classes; he is considering Wildlife Biology as a possible career path.

“I like to help serve the community, and I love being out in nature, love wildlife, so I am planning to take more classes like this and maybe go to college for it,” he said.

Seeley said even students who aren't interested in Wildlife Biology as a career path will benefit from gaining a better understanding of the natural world, and countless studies point to improved mood and well-being of students after they spend time outdoors.

This fall, the area will be an ideal place for Seeley’s students to capture insects for their collections.

In between each use, and walking through dewy grass won't be an issue, Seeley uses disinfectant (also paid for by grant funds) to keep the boots clean.

The teacher grant he received was one of 26 awarded to teachers this year by the USD 250 Foundation to expand learning opportunities for students through the purchase of enrichment activities and additional resources.


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