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Students gain from River Center class

October 30, 2003
Modoc County Record

The River Center in Alturas has been a very busy place. Since its grand opening on May 1, 2003, more than 400 students have had the pleasure of touring the center to learn more about the natural resources of the Pit River watershed.

This grant-based interpretive facility, sponsored by the Central Modoc Resource Conservation District in cooperation with the Modoc County Office of Education, is dedicated to providing watershed education by teaching place based hands-on learning to both adults and students in Modoc County.

Current grant funds offered by the center for school transportation have enabled many classes the opportunity to visit the River Center and to make numerous natural resource related field trips to the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge, private landowner cooperative restoration project sites and most recently field trips to the Modoc National Forest.

This fall, Arlington Elementary, South Fork Elementary, grades 4th through 8th, Stateline Elementary, and High Desert Community Day Scholl visited the River Center and explored the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge by taking a hike with the Refuge Manager Steve Clay and Wildlife Biologist Shannon Ludwig.

The purpose of the hike was to teach students about the significant role that refuges play in providing wildlife habitat. "Students love learning about wildlife and natural resources," says Laura VanAcker, River Center Education Coordinator. "It's fun to see how enthusiastic and interested they are."

One goal of the River Center is to help teachers meet the State Education Standards for each grade level, with experiences in the out-of-doors. Toward this goal, Laura VanAcker organized a fourth grade, "Day in the Forest" for Alturas Elementary students on October 16 at the Cedar Pass Snow Park.

The students enjoyed a talk about trees presentation learning about tree parts, products used from trees, tree types, and proper forest management. They also went on a forest scavenger hunt, adopted a tree, wrote poetry and played "Oh Deer!" a game about habitat components.

VanAcker was grateful to have excellent assistance and support from the Public Land agencies: Marty Yamagiwa and Blair Parrott from the Modoc National forest, Jami Ludwig, Peter Hall, Heather LeNeave, and Lesika Parrott from the Bureau of Land Management, and artist Sophe Sheppard who all came together to give the students a fun and wonderful outdoor experience.

VanAcker also coordinated a field trip for sixth graders from Modoc Middle School. On October 20, Joe McFarlan, a retired Bureau of Land Management Geologist, visited the students in their classroom to prepare them for a geology hike, which was to follow on October 21, at Cedar Pass. Their "Day in the Forest" included a forest resource scavenger hunt with Lynette Sullivan from the Bureau of Land Management and Shirley Clay a community volunteer and a forest food web game led by Lynette Kingsley, Joel Varner, and Laura VanAcker.

"Kids love seeing and feeling the concepts they learn in the classroom," says VanAcker. "You can watch their eyes light up when they make the connections.

VanAcker is grateful that she has the opportunity to stimulate young people's interest and awareness of the watershed in which they live. "It is a wonderful thing to give students a chance to see and feel the things that they read about in books. We hope we are providing a learning experience that will empower students to make wise stewardship decisions as adults."

The River Center is open to the public Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. Weekend visits can also be arranged by calling the River Center. If you are interested in scheduling a field trip, River Center tour or serving as a volunteer please contact Laura VanAcker at (530) 233-5085.

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