Last week, an On the Ground event was hosted at the Rose Lake State Game Area with the GRAND Learning Network as part of their annual orientation. This week, MUCC’s OTG program is focusing on wrapping up the project season with three more events. Coming up this Friday, August 25th, OTG will be joining the NCCC crew in the Pigeon River Country State Forest to complete a project maintaining the wildlife opening by removing small trees and shrubs and applying herbicide to the stumps. On Saturday, August 26th, OTG will be planting trees in the Melstrand Grouse Enhanced Management Site with the local chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society, Alger County UP Whitetails, and the Michigan Sharp Tail Association. To finish off this season, OTG will be in the Grayling State Forest on September 23rd to plant trees with the National Wild Turkey Federation, Camp Grayling, and the Department of Natural Resources. To RSVP to volunteer or see more details about these events, view the links at www.mucc.org/ontheground.
Last week on Thursday, a group of nine Lansing-area teachers built four large brush piles for rabbitat to get a feel for what their students will be involved in during future OTG Jr. events with the group. The areas DNR Wildlife Biologist, Chad Fedewa, joined us for lunch to give a talk about what he does as a biologist in the area and the benefits of volunteer groups to his work. The teachers are enthusiastic about the potential to benefit wildlife habitat and hope to participate in future OTG Jr. projects in the Greater Lansing area in the next year. Partnerships like this are essential to expanding these programs and getting more youth involved in wildlife habitat management and conservation.
MUCC’s Public Information Officer, Nick Green, highlights some key messages from the event:
“Kids want to be involved in nature, they want to get their hands dirty and learn about how they can have an effect on our environment,” said Murphy Elementary fifth-grade teacher Zsa Mahon– one of the nine teachers involved in the rabbitat project.
The program was directed towards teachers in the GRAND Learning Network – teachers who already have shown an interest in exposing kids to unique ways of learning such as getting outdoors and learning through hands-on projects in the greater Lansing area.
Before putting on their work gloves, the group of teachers took a few moments to observe the field site. They listened for sounds indicating various wildlife species in the area and looked at the types of trees and vegetation that were present at the site. This reflection helped to gauge the impact that building new brush piles for wildlife habitat will have in the location.
Each teacher sweat, got their hands dirty and some even got a bump or bruise while building rabbitat – habitat to help rabbits and other small critters survive and thrive. The process involved building brush piles from sticks, logs, and other debris.
Although each OTG Jr. project can be tailored to the age of kids and their abilities, the teachers were able to see how the program exposes students to nature in a unique way that fosters learning and forces teamwork and leadership amongst students. The program also plants the seed of conservation in our youth and helps them to understand the importance of protecting and bettering the world around us.
After four brush piles were built, the teachers headed to the archery range for the second part of a normal OTG Jr. day – learning about archery and wildlife identification. McKeon and Topp helped each teacher learn how to properly hold a bow and shoot it safely – one of various outdoor recreation activities that are done with each student participating in OTG Jr. when the weather allows.
MUCC Conservation Educator Tyler Butler had teachers try and identify certain waterfowl species using a key that was provided,
Mahon said that OTG Jr. will help students feel that they have ownership and responsibility of their community and the world around them.
“Students love to be able to contribute and learn through non-traditional ways,” Mahon said. “They are able to make a tangible impact that they can then bring their friends and parents to experience.”
McKeon hopes that the teachers who attended will take what they learned back to their schools.
“If we can get these teachers involved and spread the conservation message that MUCC is so invested in, we will have a generation of conservationists in Michigan like nowhere else in the United States,” McKeon said.
Keep up with the upcoming OTG event schedule and OTG Jr event recaps at www.mucc.org/ontheground.
MUCC’s On The Ground Program is supported by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division