By Robin Mayo, Executive Director, WISE (Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment)
On May 11th, Wrangell Institute of Science & Engineering welcomed 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students for the 19th Annual Earth Discovery Day. This was held for the Kenny Lake and Glennallen students of the Copper River School District. 12 education stations were manned by staff from local agencies and organizations, including U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, Native Village of Tazlina, Native Village of Kluti-Kaah, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Copper River Native Association, and Ahtna, Inc. The students were engaged in place-based lessons designed to help them feel awe and wonder for the natural world, and a sense of connection and belonging in the Copper River Basin. The program nurtures a stewardship ethic and excitement for scientific discovery and exploration of nature.
Mercedes Knighten, Ahtna, Inc. Shareholder Advocate, shared traditional plant lore of the Ahtna people with 4th grade students. The spicy fragrance of cottonwood filled the air as the students learned to pick the sticky buds and infuse it in oil to make Balm of Gilead.
The students also learned about traditional teas and other useful plants, as well as how to harvest them with respect. Scott DeBruyne, Ahtna, Inc. Forester, showed all the tools necessary for a forester and how to use them. He was able to show the students how math related to field work and explained differences in Spruce we have in Alaska versus Pine that is found in other states.
At Earth Discovery Day students also learned about careers in science, resource management, and the outdoors. Wildland firefighters from the Alaska Division of Forestry had the students predict fire conditions by taking real-time measurements using weather instruments.
Earth Discovery Day is a huge team effort, and we are grateful for all the partners who took the time from their busy spring schedules to spend the day with our youth.