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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
MODOC NWR: Refuge Partnerships Enable Modoc School Students to Experience the Outdoors 
Region 8, May 24, 2008

Sean Cross, Modoc NWR

2008 marks the sixth year that Modoc National Wildlife Refuge has partnered with the River Center, Ducks Unlimited, and the Modoc, Calif., School District to host annual field trips to the environmental education site.  Each day over a two week period, staff and volunteers from the refuge, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Klamath Bird Observatory, The PIT Club (a high school conservation club) and the River Center provide hands on learning stations and educational tours.   Every class from Kindergarten through 6th grade travels out to the education site to participate in this wonderful event.  The environmental education coursework is written to meet the California standards for each grade so the field trips fit right into the class and is preplanned with the teachers.


With the help of The River Center and The PIT Club, the refuge provided each class with willow clippings for the kids to root out. Staff from the River Center and the Klamath Bird Observatory then visited the classrooms periodically during the month prior to the field trips to help them get the hundreds of willow clippings ready, and conduct coursework on wetlands and migratory birds. 


This year marked special changes for the kids at the site and they were ready to go by the end of May. Three to four classes a day boarded the school buses and rolled out to the refuge’s Environmental Education Area where they explored a newly constructed wetland, learned about aquatic insects, conducted scientific observation and data recording and learned to listen to nature by cataloging different sounds.  Each class participated in vegetating the new wetland and riparian area.  The kids planted the willows they had rooted in their classrooms and also planted other native species like quaking aspen, chokecherry, elderberry, and currant to restore and expand the riparian area at the adoption site.  The weather was not the most cooperative but the kids really went at it and accomplished a great deal of the work before things got to bad for them to be outside.  The weather finally won though and the program had to be moved indoors where the learning stations continued and only the willows were planted around a wetland at Refuge Headquarters.  The rest of the riparian planting was finished by the Refuge Youth Conservation Corps.


The refuge is working toward transforming the site into a first-class environmental education facility with shelters, parking area, restrooms, trail, boardwalk, observation platform, viewing blind, interpretive signs, and a completely restored riparian area Each year the visiting students’ accomplishments contribute to the overall plan. Refuge Project Leader Steve Clay intends to seasonally open the area to the public once all elements are completed.


Last year, about 2000 students participated in the spring and fall field trips, which mean nearly every child in the school system visited Modoc Refuge at least once. The program’s success has spurred other groups to emulate the line up and similar education efforts are springing up in other Northeast California locations.



Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov