Laura Woodward, Lead Naturalist
What a crazy spring! Most of our winter field trips were able to have lunch outside, but the kids in the majority of our spring field trips were freezing. But besides the weather, the Montana Audubon Center’s spring ANTS (Audubon Naturalist in the Schools) field trips were a great success. This year, our visiting 4th graders went canoeing in our ponds and collected turtles – which was very hard with the cool weather, and helped take care of our 54 acres around the Center by weeding.
After a brief vocabulary lesson of the different classifications of plants (native, nonnative, invasive, and noxious) and a demonstration on how to pick the plant properly, the kids were set free to pick as many noxious weeds as they could. The two plants that we focused on were white top (Lepidium draba) and houndstongue (Cynoglossum officinale) – both of these plants are considered noxious within the state of Montana.
To make the grueling task of weeding more exciting to the kids, we made it into a competition. There were three competitions going on at once: between the morning and afternoon groups, between each class within the school, and to have the most amount of weeds of any other spring field trip group. All of the measurements were based on weight.
During the six weeks of spring field trips, our students picked over 4000 pounds of white top and houndstongue! Our overall winner was Ms. Auch’s 4th grade class from Poly Drive Elementary with 598 pounds alone! Many kids found the weeding enjoyable and there were also several comments along the lines of “I’m going to take some seeds home so I can grow (insert plant here) at home and pick it there!!” Though not exactly the idea we had behind weeding, it was nice to know that the kids had a great time and helped the Center at the same time.
(Photo is of Ms Auch’s class picking white top on probably the coldest and wettest day of our spring ANTS field trip.)