A recent Friday afternoon was not spent indoors with three hours of lecture; instead, it was a massive outdoor game of student tag. Layered in winter clothes and boots, Conserve School students practiced teamwork in a joint Advanced Placement Environmental Science and Outdoor Skills class. Students spent this time in the snowy woods acting as herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores simulating population ecology. Each student was instructed to search for natural resources including water and food as they scurried through the snow near Big Donahue Lake. Like wolves in a pack prey on deer, our student carnivores searched together for the herbivore and omnivore populations. While running and hiding from the carnivores, the herbivores were instructed to locate and tag water and food resources (images strapped to trees) in order to live. The sub zero temperatures that day made the activity even more challenging.
Determined to survive, not all populations could be sustained; students experienced the very real struggles animals face as they seek sustenance in winter while being stalked by a predator. With this form of experiential learning students enjoy the winter weather while gaining insight to population growth, data collecting, and outdoor play. As an extension of outdoor play, students observed and recorded the fluctuation of herbivore, omnivore, and carnivore populations.
(Thanks to Teaching Fellow Emily Hayne for providing this description and these photos.)