The Root River Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) sponsored the 6th Grade Environmental Day on Tuesday, September 20 at Winnebago Springs. The popular event founded by Spring Grove teacher Terry Nelson in 1997 has been held annually except in 2020 due to the pandemic.
District Manager David Walter proudly shared, “This is the 25th anniversary.”
The event has been held at Winnebago Springs every year except when the property changed hands. That year the event was held at Beaver Creek Valley State Park.
There are no fees for students to attend. However, the schools are responsible for providing transportation for the students. Root River SWCD Administrative Assistant Janice Messner mentioned that the presenters volunteer their time.
Presenters included Shaunna Repking and Stuart Veith, soil scientist, USDA NRCS; Stuart Veith, soil scientist, USDA NRCS; Sara Holger, naturalist, Whitewater State Park; Amanada Gentry, Winona County SWCD; Tyler Ramaker, MN DNR; Ron Meiners, retired district manager, Root River SWCD; Jason Bland, DNR Forestry, Caledonia; Kevin Kuehner, hydrologist, MN Department of Ag; and Vaughn Snook, assistant area supervisor and Travis Viker, technician, DNR Fisheries in Lanesboro.
The students spend the entire day outside starting at 9:05 a.m. and ending at 1:40 p.m. with students rotating through eight stations, each lasting 25 minutes. The stations covered several topics: soil crayons/soils, learning to live with rattlesnakes, aquatic invasive species, ATV safety, wildlife, forestry, water quality/groundwater geology and fossils, and electro-shocking stream.
The stations are in various locations on a grassy area surrounded by wooded hills along the Winnebago Springs stream. The venue allows students an opportunity to learn about the nature environment in which they live.
6th grader Kian Thesing from La Crescent answered, “I learned that soil is important, and that iron makes red and orange soil. I also learned that it is illegal to keep a rattlesnake as a pet.”
Presenters asked questions to engage the students. Who owns the water? Where does the stream we are standing by end up? How do you determine the age of a fish? What are the two species of trout that are native to SE Minnesota?
A total of 193 Houston County students participated in this year’s event. All but one school, St. Peters, participated. Schools that participated included Houston, La Crescent, Caledonia, St. Mary’s, St. John’s, Spring Grove, and Crucifixion.
In unison, Spring Grove students Zoey DeWall and Adah Solum answered that they had fun. When Soil Scientist Repking heard Adah’s last name and how it was spelled she shared that Solum means “soil.”