Hands-on approach to critical habitats

EVERETT — Some children don’t have the opportunity to take an autumnal hike in the forest.

So Thursday, staff from the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest visited the students of Horizon Elementary School on W. Casino Road in south Everett.

Seattle-based EarthCorps volunteers were there, too, hosting a work party for fourth- and fifth-grade students in the woods and wetlands adjacent to the school yard.

Students through third grade were treated to an educational presentation by Forest Service outreach specialist Aleta Eng.

Second-grade teacher Alicia Gonzalez said her students were eager to participate in the presentation’s hands-on approach to science.

Eng brought out salmon roe for them to look at, along with skunk and raccoon pelts.

“It’s special that you have these woods next to your school. It’s the home for many creatures, including tree frogs and bats,” Eng said.

With Halloween approaching, the mention of bats drew some “oohs” from the second-grade crowd.

“Bats eat bugs,” one student said.

“That’s right,” Eng said. “They can eat 6,000 mosquitoes in a night. That’s like us eating 50 pizzas.”

Eng and the class talked about the fact that woods and wetlands are important to animals because they provide food and shelter for the creatures.

“It’s important for people, too. The plants in the wetlands also help clean and filter water so we humans continue to have clean water to drink,” she said.

Gerardo Guzman, 7, wanted to make sure the raccoon and skunk pelts Eng brought to show weren’t alive.

“I would not want to pet a live skunk,” Gerardo said. “But talking about our wetlands was awesome. We need to keep them clean.”

In the woods and wetlands next door, fourth- and fifth-graders donned gardening gloves and worked at pulling invasive blackberries and other weeds from the ground.

Gabriel Dominguez, 9, a fourth-grader, used a tool to rip vines away from a mountain ash tree.

“This is really helpful to the native plants and to the animals who live here, too,” Gabriel said.

Lilian Magruder, also 9, found a spider to examine in her gloved hands.

“I’m not afraid of the spider,” she said. “It’s good. It catches flies in its web.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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