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Overlooking the lake

Lesson on glaciers culminates with field trip to nature center

Nov. 30, 2006

FOX POINT-BAYSIDE - On the beach of Lake Michigan on the cool, blustery day of Nov. 16, several pairs of students from Stormonth Elementary School each took a sheet of paper and put a handful of sand on it.

Sliding a hand-held magnet back and forth under the paper, students began to see tiny black particles separate from the sand, looking almost like little insects as they squirmed across the paper.

But they already had been told what would happen by Jean Strelka, a teacher at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. It was just a matter of actually seeing it that made the experience believable.

The particles were tiny bits of iron ore that glaciers from Canada brought as they moved across Wisconsin thousands of years ago. The ore particles were solid proof of those glaciers, Strelka told the students.

"I think it was interesting to see the metal stuck in the sand," fourth-grader Quinn Rosen said.

The center offers schools a series on Lake Michigan each November, and Stormonth had several groups of students attend.

Pollutants muddy waters

After leaving the beach, the group ran up a steep hill and climbed the stairs of a 60-foot observation tower. From there, the students gained still another interesting perspective.

"I learned that the height of a glacier would be 88 times as high as that tower," Quinn said.

Another student, Cassidy Dettlaf, said she really liked the view from the observation tower.

"I liked going up to the top of that tower and seeing Lake Michigan and learning about the water cycle," Cassidy said. "And I liked learning how we could keep it cleaner from pollution."

Strelka also taught the students that water on the earth today is the same as it was in the beginning. It is just constantly recycled. There are also 300 kinds of pollutants in the Great Lakes.

"For every gallon of water on the earth today, we have three drops," Strelka said. "And polluted water is part of those three drops."

For fun, Strelka asked the students to think of someone from a former time who might have sipped the same water they were drinking.

Answers ranged from a cave man to King Tut to dinosaurs.

Cassidy chose an American Indian maiden. "I thought of an Indian girl washing her hair," she said. "I saw an Indian video and I have long hair."

Time it takes to make sand

On the beach, Strelka also did an experiment asking students to pick up stones and shake them in a can to see if they could make sand.

With the aid of a piece of sandstone she added, a little sand was shaken off. But she said it would have taken hundreds of shakes to loosen particles using the hard stones from the beach.

"I used the sandstone to speed up the point of the experiment," she told the group.

Once back in the center building, she had also prepared a number of objects to teach students more about water pollutants such as Zebra mussels and other invasive species that got into the Great Lakes, as well as the food chain in Lake Michigan.

"We also went over the food web or pyramid of the lake that starts with algae and crustaceans and goes up to fish and humans," Strelka said.

Tony Blust, the group's teacher at Stormonth, said he knows the kids loved the observation tower, but they also were interested in the history lesson.

"The articles she had put under the blanket gave them clues about Wisconsin history and what's happened to the lake," Blust said. "It's important for students to learn about the environment and pollution."

"The field trip was a nice experience and it will prepare them for other units of study on pioneers and explorers," Blust said. "And it was a nice culmination for their study of glaciers."

By the numbers

Students at Stormonth learned

the following lessons at SANC

during a recent field trip:

about 10,000

years ago glaciers were formed

about 1

mile high glaciers reach

4.5 billion

years old the Earth is

30,000

babies per year one Zebra

mussel produces

4

states the Great Lakes

are surrounded by

20

percent of freshwater on Earth the Great Lakes has

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