2015 Program

2015 Young Naturalist Program at the Manlius Library

The CNY Chapter of the Izzak Walton League in partnership with the Manlius Public Library  created  The Young Naturalist Program in 2015.  The program was an effort to engage students in the natural environment through hands on educational experiences. The program was  available for students entering grades 5 through 8 for during the Summer of 2015.  The program consisted of 6 events, including a kickoff event, which attracted the interest of 51 kids. An average of 25 youth participated in the following 5 weekly session. The program such as success it was continued as once a month program in September, with plans to expand the summer offerings in 2016.

The Young Naturalist Program was an educational experience created during the summer of 2015 for students entering grades 5 through 8. Working in collaboration with the Izaak Walton League, and the Manlius Library, local teacher Don Gates and his assistant field coordinator Diana Jagde led an exploration of the local ecology of Manlius, New York.
            This program extended over a 6 week period with 1 hour long sessions once a week. Funding was provided through an IWLA Creek Freaks $400 grant. The grant money provided the program with a comfortable budget to acquire the materials needed.
            The program kickoff began on July 1st in the Manlius Public Library. This day was simply a teaser of what this program will be with the goal of sparking an interest in the kids to join. The macroinvertebrate display and topographic maps of the region that were placed on and around the sign-up table were found most intriguing by many of the young adults passing through. This day was a huge success in promoting the program and increasing the amount of potential participants.
            The first session of the Young Naturalist Program began with an overview of what’s to come in the following month. Key concepts such as what a watershed is, why it is important, and how we can conduct different tests to determine the water quality were discussed through video, presentation, and games. The students also explored the topographic maps to identify key features of land forms and water bodies and to locate and describe Limestone Creek.
The second session was centered on biological indicators and macroinvertebrate identification. In the classroom there were live and preserved macroinvertebrates on display for the kids to observe, interact with, and identify. They loved it! Throughout the day’s program we went over how these critters could be utilized as water quality indicators (as different macroinvertebrates can thrive in different water qualities). Seeing that they were going to be applying what they learned today during next weeks stream expedition, everyone was quite attentive and eager to learn.
            The third session was located at Limestone Creek, and the days objective was to have the young naturalists capture the macroinvertebrates and conduct a biological water quality assessment of this section of the creek. Being outside, in the water, and actively learning about these bugs was almost too much fun.
            The fourth session was located at the local Manlius Fish Hatchery, where the students learned about the history of the hatchery, what fish were here, and birds of prey. They were taken to the pools of trout where a discussion was held about the trout needs and why they are important. This day exposed the connections that are present between the bugs, plants, and animals.
            The fifth session was held at Limestone Creek. The days activities were centered on conducting physical and chemical tests to measure the health of the stream. Every naturalist was eager to participate in conducting the different tests.  Students collected water samples and tested pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, and phosphate levels. This day gave them an understanding of the different chemical and physical factors that impact what bugs and fish can live there.
            During each session, the young naturalists were able to stay past the hour mark if they chose to- something which many of them took advantage of to ask more questions or complete more of the activity. Many of the parents even stayed throughout the sessions, observed the activities, and asked questions about the materials at hand. Throughout the program, experts were brought in to help facilitate the learning experience. This kept each week fun, fresh, and exciting.

            In the future it is hoped to expand this program and have it run through a network of libraries. Ideally grants will help provide funding for the materials necessary for the different sessions. There will soon be an established lesson plan that will have activities, suggestions, and step by step processes. It is planned to make this program something easy to understand and adapt to different locations - that way your average individual can become an “expert” on the topic. The Young Naturalist Program is a fun and impactful opportunity to teach kids about water, its importance to us and the environment, and a little something about their community. 

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