Stacie Goodman’s fourth-graders comprised the first of seven fourth-grade classes from Scotch that will visit different sections of the 4.25-mile trail in the next week. The students work with naturalist Laurel Zoet to remove trash as well as to identify and remove the common, invasive garlic mustard plant.
“This is a great way for them to get out and learn hands-on — they can relate it to their lives,” said Goodman, 27, of Clarkston. “This is pretty much the conclusion of our environments unit. When you go back into the classroom, you talk about what things you can do in your lives now that can help in our community. We tie this into community service and talk about how we can help other people.”
Zoet said that she was impressed with the effort of the 26 students and eight parent chaperones, who collected 71 pounds of trash and 52 pounds of garlic mustard in one hour’s work on a windy, chilly afternoon, as well as the information retention of those students. Zoet had visited Scotch the week prior to give a demonstration on garlic mustard and said she was “thrilled” with students who could recite facts about the weed that she mentioned in her demonstration.
“I ran into a couple of moms and they shared with me that their girls recognized garlic mustard in their condo association, so they got the association board together and started doing their own garlic mustard management within their neighborhood,” Zoet said. “Going into the classrooms is a great way to catch kids when they’re younger so they can get a glimpse of the outdoors. You don’t need to be sitting down to learn.”
Zoet quoted a recent study at Michigan State University that found that garlic mustard spread advanced at an average of 20 feet per year and expanded as much as 120 feet in one year. Robert Bush, a student in Goodman’s class, echoed the findings of the study.
“It’s important to help because if we left all the garlic mustard, next year there would be more and it would be harder to pick up,” Bush said. “We’re also helping to get rid of waste and garbage. That’s important so that it doesn’t go out into our oceans and rivers.”
Goodman said that fourth-grade classes at Scotch had been visiting the trail as well as hosting Zoet to teach in their classroom for four consecutive years to learn about everything from invasive plant species to the students’ native Rouge River Watershed. She said that students Thursday responded well to the idea of being active participants in a nature system which continues to need help.
“It went so well the first year and we saw the need for it,” said Goodman, a fourth-year teacher at Scotch. “You can see as you walk around, these invasive plants are overtaking parts of the trail and if we don’t do something to stop that, maybe this won’t be here.”
Several students commented on relating their experience on the trail with their own home lives. Taylor Patterson, a student in Goodman’s class, said that her home backyard is oftentimes home to deer and coyotes and that she was happy to learn more about how to improve their lives.
“I’m trying to do the best I can to help those animals. I can really see what’s good and bad for animals and for the environment when we’re out here, so that they won’t be eating the wrong things,” Patterson said.
Zoet invited the students to Rouge Rescue 2011, an annual event taking place this year June 4 at the campus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn which will include trash cleanup, invasive-plant removal, and planting projects.