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  • Sue Leamy Kies

Elementary Students Connect Nature and Literacy

St. Rose (Cuba City) & Westview (Platteville) Elementary Visit the Trail

On Friday, May 19th, about 30 kids, 1st through 3rd graders, from St. Rose Grade School in Cuba City visited the Rountree Branch Trail, accompanied by their teachers and a few parents. Dan Flesch, a PCA volunteer and former teacher, led them on a nature walk.

Dan Flesch starts his tour with the St. Rose kids

Beginning at the kiosk behind Menard’s, the group made its way to the railroad bridge and then over to Mound View Park for a picnic lunch. They had many adventures along the way, and according to PCA volunteer Robin Fatzinger who attended, students were “engaged and curious the entire time.”

A nice day to tour the trail with Dan Flesch

The day before the outing, Carly Borcherding, PCA gardener and volunteer, set up the story walk of Sassy’s Vacation so students could read about the adventures of Sassy the turtle as they trekked down the hill toward the stream. Thanks to donations from Patti and Lee Eggers, Caitlin and Joe Rosemeyer, Sheila and Myron Tranel, Jack and Julie Wiegman and two anonymous donors, these St. Rose students received their own copies of Sassy’s Vacation, written by PCA volunteer Sue Leamy Kies. Classroom teachers used the book in class as a teaching tool to connect natural science and literacy. This first-hand observational experience was a culmination of their studies.

St. Rose kids testing the bridge's weight capacity

Dan engaged the students with questions and taught them about the importance of the various types of native trees and plants. Robin said that students learned what an oak savannah was and were amazed at the size and age of some of the trees. When they crossed the two bridges, Dan explained that originally the railroad built them for the trains to go across. He also pointed out a bat house, explaining why it was there and why bats are essential in the natural world.

Dan Flesch with Westview kids

On Thursday, May 25th, it was Platteville’s Westview students and their teachers’ turn to visit the trail. Buses transported alternating groups of 1st graders to the parking lot of the Super 8 Motel. From there, Dan Flesch led students along the Rountree Branch to Katie’s Garden and then back again.

Again, Dan encouraged students to notice nature. Like the way the tops of the trees reached and leaned toward the sunlight to get the light they needed to survive and grow. Like the native plants that established themselves along Rountree Branch in the habitat where they thrived, providing early Native Americans with food and medicine. Like the difference between cow parsnip and wild parsnip. Along the way, a few students picked up pinecones and fallen leaves as souvenirs of their day on the trail.

Sue Kies with some Westview kids

Author Sue Leamy Kies joined a group of 1st graders on one of the walks and was impressed with the kids’ questions and interest in the trail and nature. When they returned to the Super 8 parking lot, students and adults posed for pictures with some of the donors who provided each Westview 1st grader with a copy of the book Sassy’s Vacation. Thanks to these donors: Ellen and John Urness, Joan and Bob Just, Marie and Dawson Trine, Mary and Larry McGinley, Pat and Tom Jonas, and The Optimists Club (Melissa Palfrey, President), as well as two other anonymous contributors.

Westview kids with PCA folks

All the students read the book in school with their teachers, and in February Sue Leamy Kies visited Westview and talked to 1st through 4th graders about writing the book. What fun to see students connect nature and literacy!

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