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Learning to get MAD about winter survival

How do Michigan animals get through the c-c-cold months?

Emelia McGovern, left, and Braelyn Porter get the wobbles out for their first time on snowshoes

Naturalist Mia LaMore took in the gaggle of snowshoe-clad third graders gathered around her and asked, “What does migration mean?”

Journey Crain raised her hand. “It means moving somewhere else,” she said.

And so went the game Journey and her Alto Elementary classmates spent the next 20 minutes or so playing. They paired up and made their way down a trail of tall pine trees, mimicking different birds that faced realistic challenges along the way: having to dodge predators, swoop low to avoid obstacles such as power lines, and fall to the ground groaning after drinking polluted groundwater.

Alto third grader Evelyn Austhof puts on a pair of snowshoes before heading to the trails for a winter animal survival lesson

The game was part of a visit to the Wittenbach/Wege Environmental Agriscience Center made by all Lowell third graders, for an activity aligned with the science curriculum.

Said Director Courtney Cheers: “We explain to them that animals have to get ‘MAD’ when winter comes: They move or migrate, they adapt, or they die.”

Teacher Carla Wobma said her class spent the first trimester this school year studying the life cycle of a frog. There are three of them in her classroom aquarium that were raised from eggs to tadpoles to froglets and now fully formed frogs with gills.

Wobma’s students visited the center’s pond, where they learned that under the ice, frogs have burrowed into the mud for the winter in order to survive.

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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