Sparta — Senior Jacob Odel stood proudly as he held up the fish he caught during a recent class excursion to the Pedestrian Nature Trail at Sparta Sports Park.
Jacob and fellow students in the special education program in grades 3-12 spent some time at the park where they learned how to fish, went on a scavenger hunt and painted during a “fishy” lesson.
It’s about patience, said one adult leader as Jacob and fellow classmate Addyson Merritt tried their hand at fishing. “Catch those fish, Jacob. Addyson, did you catch one yet? Oh, you got something, Jacob!”
“Awesome. Man, you are an expert,” said a volunteer. “Anybody want to take his fish off the line?” Students responded with a resounding “no.”
Freshman Emily Vande Wege was excited to start the scavenger hunt. “Don’t forget, we’re learning about fish,” she said to her friend Myla Bemke, a seventh-grader.
The activity was funded by the Sparta Education Foundation and led by retired teacher Sue Blackall.
“True or false, goldfish live in a tree?” asked Blackall, reading the first clue as she led a group of students on the scavenger hunt. “Oh, I see something,” she added, as the group approached a tree decorated with goldfish crackers.
“I liked the scavenger hunt,” said freshman Marcella Hudson. Each clue and treat complemented a fact about fish. “Good air from water in the mouth, through the gills and bubbles out,” read another clue on a sign that led to containers of bubbles. “The line drops a tasty bait. Here comes a fish! Shh! Just wait!,” read another clue that led to another tree decked out with bags of gummy worms that students happily added to their stash of goodies. Students also looked for insects in boxes of soil.
At the art tables, senior Mady Wilkinson pressed a painted fish to paper to create a print. “I didn’t like touching the dead fish,” she said later. To make the prints, students used plastic gloves as they painted the fish before putting the fish to paper.
‘Don’t forget, we’re learning about fish’– Freshman Emily Vande Wege
“I love coming here to celebrate with Mrs. Blackall, who has done so much around our school campuses,” said high-school teacher Renne Wyman. “Because she includes us when she is doing plantings or working on the trails, these kids get a really cool chance to practice some life skills that they would normally miss out on.”
Blackall said planting was started last spring, and the nature trail is a work in progress. Plans call for more wildflowers, trees and bushes. Blackall also said a federal grant provided for the nature trail, a playground, pavilion and one more field at the sports park.