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Fifth-graders host “Thank You Walk” at Teller Wildlife Refuge
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Fifth-graders host “Thank You Walk” at Teller Wildlife Refuge

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CORVALLIS – Fifth-grade students in Corvallis hosted a ‘Thank You Walk’ on Thursday, to celebrate the connections they’ve made in the Bitterroot Valley through education, conservation, recreation and stewardship.

The walk near the Thomas Pond on Teller Wildlife Refuge was the opportunity for students to share the knowledge they gained about the riparian habitat and natural inhabitants of Teller Wildlife Refuge.

Fifth-grade teacher Amanda Bestor praised the community for sharing knowledge and making time to help students.

“We have been so happy and grateful to receive so much community support this year to help fund our bikes and borrow/purchase educational materials,” said Bestor. “We’re having a little walk for all the people that have helped us with our outdoor learning this year. It isn’t a full scale community walk, but we’ve invited all of the parents, and the many groups that have helped us along the way including: Teller Wildlife Refuge board, the Corvallis Schools Foundation board, the RAPP Foundation board and the Bitterroot Audubon board.”

This school year, the Corvallis fifth-grade students rode their bikes nearly every Thursday to Teller Trail or the Teller Wildlife Refuge main property to learn about and experience the nearest natural environment – specifically the riparian habitat – in their back yard.

“I really feel that outdoor spaces are a perfect place to learn and am so grateful our school supports it,” said Bestor.

The students studied birds, insects and macro invertebrates in the river, learning all the insect’s parts, and the walk was a presentation of knowledge learned throughout the year.

“I wanted them to teach the people who helped them get there what they learned,” said Bestor. “There are five themes of geography that we are supposed to teach in social studies and two of them are place and location so I’m tying science with the location of their own place – what’s important here – instead of all the other places. I wanted them to know their place. It’s neat how it has expanded – they’ll bring things they found from home or a kid will say ‘I saw a service berry the other day’ certain kids have grabbed on to things – so it’s cool.”

The students came on Monday and selected their location so they could stand next to the natural item they were presenting.

On Thursday, the students formed 16 stations along the way and gave brief presentations about natural objects they held or were standing by. The first station gave a welcome, a thank you and an overview. The other stations gave the specific details that they had learned about cottonwood trees, coniferous trees, ponderosa pines, berries, water, grasses, white tail deer, streams and more.

The first station welcomed guests to the Thank You Walk.

Jacob Nelson gave the presentation on rivers and creeks.

“Virgin creeks are a very important part of this habitat,” said Nelson as he showed an illustration of insects. “The clean, clear, cold water in Montana is home to many aquatic insects like these. The insects provide food for the trout. Cutthroat trout need the clean, cool water to lay eggs in. More than 170,000 waterways go through Montana. Our state ranks third in the number of stream mileage compared to Alaska and Hawaii. The Bitterroot River is a tributary of the Clark Fork River. It’s about 75 to 120 miles in length depending on who you talk to. Fly fishing is a favorite pastime in this community and heavy habitat makes for good fishing.”

Athen Gladin talked about the Red Squirrel Skull he had. He pointed out the shape, use and mount of the squirrel’s teeth and showed the pinecones with nibble marks.

Talon Carlson discussed the grasses – their shape and important uses.

“Grasses do have flowers, but they are very plain compared to regular flowers,” Carlson said. “Grasses are important to the habitat because there are lots of animals that will eat it and make their homes in it. Mice, ground squirrels and meadow voles like to make tunnels – little highways through the grass. Ground squirrels will make their dens in grassy places to protect them from predators. Some grasses have hollow jointed stems. This is a nest with grass woven into it.”

Vanessa Bargfrede, Corvallis Schools District Clerk, was one of over 50 guests on the walking tour. She had plenty of praise for the students.

“I’m very impressed with their speaking, their knowledge, the facts that they shared and how they showed the samples and examples that they had,” said Bargfrede.

Corvallis Middle School Principle Rich Durgin was also a guest on the ‘Thank You Walk’.

“It’s really rewarding to see fifth graders take what they are learning in the classroom and apply it outside,” said Durgin. “It makes it so much more real and they are all taking responsibility and doing their best – they are doing a great job and taking great pride in it.

“We really appreciate all the people that helped and donated to this class but Ms. Bestor has put in an incredible amount of energy to make this whole year happen and these students are getting out literally a couple times a month throughout the year and this is what education is about. It takes a lot of work but it’s great.”

Reach reporter Michelle McConnaha at 363-3300 or michelle.mcconnaha@ravallirepublic.com.

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