Fifth-, sixth-graders get dose of nature at annual field day
Dylan Hager stood motionless as the more than three-foot long bull snake that belonged to retired biology teacher Pat Wakeman grabbed hold of his arm. His classmates watched with nervous excitement as coil after coil of the snake's body enveloped the 10-year-old's arm.
But he said he wasn't afraid.
"That was so cool," Hager said. "He didn't squeeze as hard as I thought he would."
For the first year ever, Hager and fellow fifth-graders, as well as sixth-graders, at Tonganoxie Middle School did not spend their yearly field day competing at different sporting events at the Tonganoxie Elementary School. Instead, they spent the day at the Leavenworth County State Lake learning about outdoor activities, Native Americans and about their natural environment and what they can do to preserve and protect it.
"I did that because we moved to this building and I didn't figure the fifth and sixth-graders wanted to do the elementary-type thing," said TMS and TES physical education instructor, referring to the new middle school. They are middle school people now."
Kissinger, who organized the field day, said some of the things that she wanted to add to her curriculum were lifelong outdoor pursuits such as archery or fishing, but she didn't have enough space at the elementary school.
"By taking it out to the lake it was a way we could add those kinds of things," she said.
The middle-schoolers split their day up so they could spend 45 minutes at each of the six different stations.
The two stations close to the lake, including Wakeman's, taught the students about the living things they could find in many different ecosystems in the state. To demonstrate some of the creatures that could be found outside, Wakeman brought a bullfrog, a painted turtle, a Garter snake to his station.
Wakeman, who teaches a couple of hours of college credit biology a week at Tonganoxie High School, said he wished students could spend every day outside to learn.
"I was surprised at the kids and all of the knowledge they already had," he said. "They've got a good basis. I hope that this is something that they can take with them as they grow up," Wakeman said.
The students also spent some time learning the skills of an angler.
Shelby Fatherley, TMS fifth-grader, liked fishing the best.
"It was fun, I caught a perch," she said.
To continue the life cycle Fatherley threw the fish back into the lake, but only after giving it a kiss.
The fifth-graders were also given the opportunity to try their hand at archery.
Jane and Tony Deskis instructed the kids on proper archery etiquette, including special archery signals like sticking an arrow straight up on top of a target indicates to other archers to be careful because another archer is downfield.
"They seem to like it. There are very few who have shot before so it's a new experience," Jane said.
Hannah Heeter was one of the many students there who liked shooting the arrows the best.
"When it goes it feels like you're letting out anger, but you're not," she said.
Rebecca Pool also agreed that archery was a good way to let out her frustrations.
"I pretend (the target) is my brother," Pool said.
Kissinger said the day went well and that she got positive feedback from teachers and especially from the students.
"Some of them thought it was the best field day they've ever been to," she said. "With the lake so close it seems like a shame not to use it."
Kissinger also said the teachers would like to see it happen again next year.
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