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Nature Center tour a hit with students

By Staff | May 19, 2011

Kindergarten, first grade and second grade students received a personal tour of the Gulf Elementary School Nature Center Wednesday morning as fourth grade students taught them about botany.
Elizabeth Olancin said she has held “Talk and Tour” for the past 22 years to engage the fourth grade gifted students in learning botany. Prior to the event Wednesday the students had to research the history of botany, zen gardens, butterfly gardens, organic vegetable gardens, wetlands, pond and pond life and appropriate technology.
Fourth grade student Sam Owen designed a timeline for the library to inform students how the Gulf Elementary School Nature Center began, along with showing how it has grown over the years.
Sam said Olancin began the nature center because she wanted botany to come to life. She first called it the kindergarten garden, he said in 1986 before it was renamed in 1988.
He said they had the pond and gazebo before the nature center began, but they have added lily pads to the pond, along with many trees an plants around the gazebo.
Last year, Sam said they added three raised garden boxes to the nature center. He said he made a little raised garden bed with his dad at home so they could grow vegetables.
Lettuce, tomatoes and peppers are currently planted in the garden box, which Sam said are doing really well.
“We had to pull the lettuce out because it was growing too big,” he said. “Now tomatoes are starting to grow.”
The task of raking leaves at home and at school is one that Sam enjoys.
One of the many fourth grade tour guides, Emma Padgett, began her tour by showcasing more than a dozen two dimensional and three dimensional displays of what could be found in the Gulf Elementary School Nature Center that were created by her fellow classmates.
After the tour finished in the library, students then went outdoors for another tour in the nature center. One of the appropriate technology ideas that was implemented in the nature center utilized old tires, soda cans and leaves.
Emma said the leaves were used as dirt and the cans were used as mulch for the plants. She said you do not need soil to plant a plant.
“Appropriate technology is reusing stuff for a new cause,” she said.
Another example of appropriate technology was the use of water bottles for a trellis in the butterfly garden. Emma said once they collected empty water bottles they blew dry them to produce different shapes and then painted them with acrylic paint to add color.
She said she enjoyed being a tour guide Wednesday because the students are really interested in learning about botany.
When asked what her favorite part about the nature center was she said “everything, I really can’t choose.”
The No. 1 thing she learned from working in the nature center this year was that you cannot fight nature, you have to let it be.
Teacher Vanessa York said the excitement level of the students for botany is amazing. She said the “Talk and Tour” provides the students with awareness of the earth, along with learning the research process of putting together a paper. It also teaches the students how to provide a presentation and enhance their speaking skills.
The 23 fourth grade students took 33 kindergarten, first and second grade classes on a tour throughout the day on Wednesday.