Fourth-grader Sofia Hansert races across the wet grass at Prairie Fork Conservation Area pushing an old tire. Hansert and her fellow classmates from McIntire Elementary School competed in a relay race at Station 7 where they had to pick up items that might be found as river pollutants. Station 7 was one of 12 different stops local students made on Wednesday when they participated in the fifth annual Earth Day event held at Prairie Fork, located just southwest of Williamsburg.
Ralph Tucker, soil scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, helps to organize Earth Day at the conservation area. He said he invites a variety of different agencies to participate in offering students an educational experience about the environment. Four elementary schools from Callaway County attended - Williamsburg, McIntire, Bush and Bartley - two schools from Boone County came - Columbia Catholic and Midway Heights - and Saint Brendan School from Audrain County also came. Each school sent either its fourth or fifth grade classes.
Williamsburg fourth-grade student Emily Korff said she was having a good time on her field trip.
"Everything here's a lot of fun," Korff said. "We get to play in the dirt and touch furs."
The fourth-grader said she was also learning at the different stations.
"I think that planting trees and taking care of the earth and the environment is important about Earth Day," Korff explains.
Amber Craghead, fourth-grade teacher at McIntire, said bringing the students to the Earth Day event helps them learn about soil, conservation, pollution, the environment and habitats.
"It really helps the kids see what we're learning in the classroom out in the real world," Craghead said. "It really helps them make that connection when they see it in real life instead of just in a textbook."
Tucker said Prairie Fork Conservation Area was established by Pat Jones who was the first female to graduate in soil studies from the University of Missouri. He said Jones wanted to make the area a center for soil education. That's why Tucker dedicated about half of Wednesday's educational stations to soil study.
"Soil is an extremely valuable resource that gets blatantly overlooked," Tucker explains.
Fred Young, soil scientist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, taught students about soil importance at Wednesday's event.
"(Earth Day) is a good opportunity to get kids to come out and be exposed to a lot of different features of earth science including soils," Young said.
Josh Stevens, resource forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation, spoke to each class about tree conservation.
"It's really important that they get this opportunity to step out of the classroom and hear this message about nature," Stevens said.
McIntire fourth-grade student Dylan Penserum said he liked "getting dirty" while learning at the different stations. His favorite stop at Prairie Fork was Station 6 where he learned what types of species lived on the river bottom by fishing for them.
"I found a leech and a bug," Penserum said.