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Students Explore Science in Water, Woods and Teacher’s Yard

“Mr. V! Mr. V!” Countryside Elementary fourth-grade students shouted over and over again, excited about their discoveries, from frogs to plants to mouse skeletons.

It was a sunny day spent on hands-on science activities on their teacher, Dan Volkers’, five-acre Byron Township property.

Students reassembled the skeletons of voles and mice after picking bones out of owl pellets, worked in pairs to decipher east Student Jaci Tubergen bites a s’morefrom west while orienteering with compasses. They spotted items scavenger-hunt style during a mapping activity. They nibbled s’mores by a fire, checked out a treehouse fashioned with a zipline, met chickens and pigs and spotted koi fish in a large pond.

The field trip involved 87 Countryside fourth-graders who participated in stations on animal adaptations, tree identification and even dissecting masses of undigested owl food. Volkers, teachers Allison Abbot and Mandy Liao, and parent volunteers led the stations.

Volkers, who lives on the property with his wife, Becky, and their six children, said he wanted to host the trip for students to experience fun science activities outside the classroom. The idyllic setting provided real-life exploration in the woods, near the water and across the yard.

Students James Daniels takes a leap while Drake Poulson watches“It’s a lot more hands-on than a typical school day,” Volkers said. “It’s just to make things a little bit more real for these students, so they can get out and see the things we talk about.”

Student Noah Nolan said he felt Volkers had given him and his classmates a unique opportunity.

“It’s nice how Mr. Volkers makes school more fun,” he said.

“We actually get to experience things,” added student Kasi Charlton, while jumping on and off of a small dock set in the pond.

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Byron Center Public Schools

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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