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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

5th Graders Help U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Remove Invasive Red Cedars

Region 3, November 13, 2012
Collage of 5th Prairie Science Class students thoughts and images taken from thank you notes and reflective writing pieces.  Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, Fergus Falls MN.
Collage of 5th Prairie Science Class students thoughts and images taken from thank you notes and reflective writing pieces. Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, Fergus Falls MN. - Photo Credit: n/a
A 5th grader in the Prairie Science Class eagerly displays a red cedar branch with an unusual growth or gall she found on it.  Fabian Easement, Fergus Falls Minn.
A 5th grader in the Prairie Science Class eagerly displays a red cedar branch with an unusual growth or gall she found on it. Fabian Easement, Fergus Falls Minn. - Photo Credit: n/a
5th graders in the Prairie Science Class worked hard cutting and hauling red cedar branches and trees downhill to stack them at Fabian Easement.
5th graders in the Prairie Science Class worked hard cutting and hauling red cedar branches and trees downhill to stack them at Fabian Easement. - Photo Credit: n/a
5th graders in the Prairie Science Class took great pride in showing off their strength in carry red cedar branches down hill as part of the prairie restoration at Fabian Easement.
5th graders in the Prairie Science Class took great pride in showing off their strength in carry red cedar branches down hill as part of the prairie restoration at Fabian Easement. - Photo Credit: n/a
Heavy red cedar logs were no match for this mighty 5th grader in the Prairie Science Class who worked side-by-side with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore a native prairie on the Fabian Easement.
Heavy red cedar logs were no match for this mighty 5th grader in the Prairie Science Class who worked side-by-side with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore a native prairie on the Fabian Easement. - Photo Credit: n/a

“Where did the red cedars go? Yesterday the 5th grade Pairie Science Classroom classes went to Fabian Easement which is located near DeLagoon Park. Why were we there? To cut down red cedar trees. You may wonder why we would cut down trees. We did because red cedars are invasives! … This was really fun especially when some of the girls were carrying big branches, and would yell ‘Girl Power!’ It was odd knowing we came there cold and left sweating. … Finally we looked back and saw how the hill wasn’t recognizable from this morning! I loved knowing I made a difference. In fact that was my favorite part. I think it was an amazing experience.”

These are the words of a 5th grader in the Prairie Science Class at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls, Minn.. On November 13, the PSC partnered with the Learning Center to assist the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District remove invasive red cedar trees for a habitat easement on privately owned land.

Fifty students in the morning and another 50 students in the afternoon donned safety glasses and work gloves and used loppers to cut smaller trees. They trimmed branches from larger trees so Service employees Nate Perrine and Blair Mace could access them easier with chain saws. Students also hauled branches and trees downhill and piled them in reed canary grass, assisted by employee Stanley Mickens, for temporary wildlife cover until they are burned in a future prescribed fire.

It was an overwhelmingly positive experience for everyone, engaging even for students with attention issues. As one child stated, “A man likes to work hard!” Another said, “I wish we could do this all day.” They took grand ownership in cutting and hauling their own branch or tree, seeing the job through to completion.

In addition to helping restore this native prairie, students used their field journals to document the appearance and scent of red cedar, to make before and after sketches of the hillside, and to compare and contrast the Fabian prairie to the Learning Center.

Studying ecosystems and invasive species is part of the Minnesota 5th grade academic standards in science. Students were challenged to think about which abiotic part of this prairie ecosystem has missing for about 100 years which allows red cedars to grow (fire).

District private lands biologist Shawn Papon visited with students at the Learning Center before their Red Cedar Day and met with them on-site to guide them through the process. Fourteen parents volunteered to lead small field groups and assist students. Everyone looks forward to returning to the site in early spring to continue the restoration process.

Contact Info: Molly Stoddard, 218-998-4489, molly_stoddard@fws.gov