Students explore marshes, mallards and muskrats at Winous Point

May 17, 2023 | Schools | 0 comments

Seventh grade students from Port Clinton Middle School had the opportunity to visit Winous Point Marsh Conservancy. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

BY SHERI TRUSTY

Port Clinton Middle School students had the unique opportunity to visit Winous Point Marsh Conservancy in Port Clinton on Wednesday, May 10 to get their hands into the marsh waters and wildlife habitats they have been learning about in teacher Jared Rhode’s science classes. As they hiked the marsh in search of muskrats and mallards, they were walking across historic land.

The conservancy is housed on the grounds of Winous Point Shooting Club, the oldest duck hunting club in the nation.

When the shooting club was formed in 1856, duck hunters strove to protect the land, and those early conservation efforts are continued by modern staff that include Winous Point Shooting Club Manager John Simpson, John’s wife Becky Simpson, who is a Soil and Water District Environmental Educator, and Research Biologist Brendan Shirkey.

To Rhode’s students, the staff was an open door to a wild world.

Port Clinton Middle School science teacher Jared Rhode, right, talks with students Isaac Miller, left, and Lukas Haley, center, during a hike at Winous Point. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

While visiting Winous Point Marsh Conservancy, the students learned about endangered species like the Common Tern, which are impacted by water quality. The students studied water samples and learned about the important role marshes play as natural water filters. Shirkey discussed the connection between bird banding and bird population data, and he explained how transmitters help biologists track migration, which helps them better protect bird habitat.

The lessons the students learned at the conservancy were tied to their 7th grade science curriculum, including the difference between primary consumers and tertiary consumers, and information on structural, behavioral and physiological adaptations.

As an example, Shirkey explained that breeding with domestic mallard ducks is impacting the wild mallard population, resulting in offspring with smaller beaks that can’t consume marsh vegetation as easily.

“They are maladapted to survive in the wild,” Shirkey said.

Soil and Water District Environmental Educator Becky Simpson, right, teaches Miyah Uszak, left, and Alexander DeFreitas about the connection between marshes and water quality as they take water samples during a field trip to Winous Point Marsh Conservancy. Behind them is Becky’s husband, Winous Point Shooting Club Manager John Simpson. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

The students left the conservancy with a stronger understanding of marshes and the wildlife that lives in them.

“We learned how the marshes can affect water quality and how they filter the water out,” said student Miyah Uszak.

Student Kailea Bayer-Janes was surprised to discover organisms floating in the water samples.

“I didn’t know you could see the little insects in there,” she said.

After the indoor presentation, the students hiked the land looking for wildlife. As Research Technician Nate Stott guided a group in search of Wood Duck nests, an eagle soared above and a white-tailed deer sprinted past.

Student Thea Wybensinger said “exploring nature” was the best part of the field trip. Becky said students are invited to the conservancy to inspire that kind of excitement.

Kailea Bayer-Janes takes a peek at Wood Duck eggs with the help of Research Technician Nate Stott. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“We do this to get them to appreciate the outdoors. It’s difficult to understand the significance of these types of animals in the classroom,” Becky said. “We get them outside so, hopefully, it helps them want to preserve the marshes and understand them more.”

Rhode was grateful for the opportunity to bring his students to Winous Point Marsh Conservancy.

“It’s fantastic. We love coming out here. A lot of kids don’t know it even exists,” he said. “This allows them to explore firsthand what they’re learning in the classroom.”

What they learned most is that, if they just step outside, they’ll discover that nature is fun.

“There’s so much life bustling around that we don’t even notice,” Uszak said.

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