Mantua - Through a special program offered at Crestwood Intermediate School, students and their families have the opportunity to experience guided adventures in nearby natural areas. The goal of the program, called Nature Treks, is to share the natural world with families who don’t have the opportunity to experience it regularly. Each trek is led by Crestwood Intermediate teacher Mrs. Rosemary Krupar, and often includes student-teacher participants from nearby Hiram College. Through this program, children and their parents or grandparents visit some the area’s hidden treasures. And the discoveries they make are priceless.
Last summer, Mrs. Krupar worked as a Teacher-Ranger-Teacher at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). In her role as a Teacher-Ranger-Teacher (TRT), Mrs. Krupar spent eight weeks of her summer sharing nature with children through the National Park’s Junior Ranger classes and leading student field trips through the park. In addition, she developed educational materials about butterflies and their role in our ecosystem. Those materials are used at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center and in her own classroom at Crestwood Intermediate School.
The most recent Nature Trek was held over spring break, and included a visit to local beekeeper Melanie Seal, who spoke to trekkers about caring for honeybees. Ms. Seal owns Lazy Bee Studio, which produces and sells honey and beeswax-based products in Hiram. Ms. Seal answered students’ questions, including what it’s like to be stung, and how many bees she has. Kids were surprised to learn that although the hives currently hold 12,000 bees, by July or August, the numbers will reach between 60,000 and 90,000. Ms. Seal also showed students the tools she uses in beekeeping and honey production, including hive boxes, an extractor, and a bee suit. The high point of the visit, however, was honey sampling, where students tasted honey as varied as the plants it came from – including wildflowers, blueberries, and buckwheat.
The next stop on this day-long-adventure was the Rocking K Ranch in Shalersville. The 180-acre horse farm, owned by Jack and Heidi Kohl, offers area horse enthusiasts the optimum location to board horses. With pastures, paddocks and miles of trails outside, tack rooms, a hayloft, and a light-filled 100’ by 220’ arena inside, there was plenty to see. While seeing horses is always a wonderful experience for children, the trekkers favorite part of the tour was the indoor riding arena, where one trekker immediately asked, “Can we run in here?” After much practice trotting and galloping around the arena, the kids were hungry as horses, and ready for lunch.
After lunch, we visited Oscar Brugmann Sand & Gravel, now in its 85th year of operation. Vince Vanauken, one of the fourth generations in this family-run business, served as our guide. The company, which has been operating of the area since1929, excavates roughly 5,000 tons of rocks and sand per day. Our tour included a view of the dredger, which was excavating sand and rock from the bottom of a 65-foot lake, and stops to watch sand and gravel products being hauled, washed and sorted. Students enjoyed finding and identifying samples of all sizes of sandstone, quartz, granite, flint, shale, coal, and sandstone, and were delighted to take some home. After successfully clambering over rocks and scaling gravel piles, the group headed to the final stop of the day, and a brief hike on the Headwaters Trail in Mantua.
In the fall, students went on the first Nature Trek on NEOEA day. They toured Monroe’s Apple Orchard, Hiram College Field Station, and hiked at Nelson Ledges State Park. Trekkers celebrated Martin Luther King Day in January at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park exploring the Beaver Marsh and hiking through the ledges. Mentor Marsh and Penitentiary Glen were the destinations on a February Waiver Day. The final Nature Trek will be in June at Camp Hi in Hiram, for a family canoe trip down the Cuyahoga River.
Prior to each trek, participating students meet to conduct online research about the areas they will visit. They compile a list of questions for the people they will meet. After each trek, students meet to share their thoughts and comments. Journal entries and photos of each experience are posted to the Crestwood outdoor education blog.
The Nature Treks program is funded through a grant by the Hiram Community Trust, and is sponsored by Matt Sorrick, the Director of the Center for Science Education at Hiram College. Crestwood Intermediate third-grade teacher Rosemary Krupar is the Nature Treks Instructor. For more information on the program, visit www.crestwoodexplorestheworld.org.