Do you remember the “field trips” in elementary school better than the lessons taught in the classroom? It is likely that PNC’s Biology 205 class will remember their recent trip to Dunes State Park on Oct 21 as the day that picking all the little sticky burrs from their clothes was not so bad an experience after all.
It started with the idea of student volunteerism, a captive audience, and an alliance between the two. Last Spring a student of Dr. Vanessa Quinn’s Biology 206 class, which is geared towards future teachers, wanted help pulling invasive Garlic-Mustard at Zona Wildlife Sanctuary where she volunteers as a steward. Tacy Fletcher known to friends on campus as “Fletch” asked Dr. Quinn for help in mobilizing the entire class into an invasive search-and-destroy force to combat Garlic-Mustard. Fletch tackled the challenge of presenting a slideshow to the class in preparation. The outdoor lab experience resulted in over 70 students cleaning up the Sanctuary for extra-credit. But what could students possibly do in the fall semester when the Garlic-Mustard plant wouldn’t return until next spring?
The answer lay in seed-collecting for a local preserve that needed a little help. Late in October amidst the brilliant colors, PNC’s biology students were commissioned. And what they may have lacked in experience was more than made up for in the vast number of participants. 84 students attended Fletch’s pre-trip slide-show which had been completely retooled for the new project, and 64 students took the ride to Dunes State Park where State Ecologist John Ervin, and PNC Lab Tech Becky Hughes waited ready to guide the intrepid student-regiment around for the seed-collecting experience. While collecting and redistributing various seed types, the organizers answered questions, and encouraged the future teachers to take their prospective students on similar outdoor learning labs. Fletch who volunteers with local conservation non-profits is adding these events to her Americorps activities. Dr. Quinn has a tenacious student much like the sticky burrs mentioned earlier who loves sticking people, volunteerism and outdoor projects in the soil of opportunity to see what blossoms next.