Montessori teacher Ruth Schroe-der, above left, leads students on the trail. At right in the foreground is Jessy Poiry, and directly behind her and Ms. Schroeder are fifth graders Laney Vander-hart and Megan Harvey.
BOWLING GREEN -- About 20 years after the Montessori School of Bowling Green was built on 14 mostly wooded acres, students and teachers finally will be able to venture into the woods.
A just-completed walking trail is to be dedicated Thursday at 4 p.m. during the third annual Bowling Green Community Earth Day celebration -- one of a number of events planned around the area to raise awareness about the environment. The Bowling Green event, which is open to the public, is to include storytellers, nature walks, art projects, and a tree planting demonstration.
The Montessori school is next to the Black Swamp Preserve and the Slippery Elm Trail. But it's the school's own eight acres of woods that teachers such as Liz Resler are eager to take her students to for lessons in botany and zoology.
"The possibilities are endless," said Mrs. Resler, who teaches grades 1-3. "We've been waiting for years to be able to do something like this -- to share nature with the children."
Jessica Hover, associate director of the school, which enrolls about 100 children in preschool through sixth grade, said the mulch-covered trail will be used by classes and by the school's cross country team.
It's been a longtime goal, she said, that finally came to fruition with the help of a $4,700 grant from the Bowling Green Community Foundation, lots of in-kind donations, and technical assistance from an environmental impacts assessment class at Bowling Green State University.
Mrs. Hover said the class identified plants and animals living in the woods, plotted the major trees -- most of them maple and oak -- and recommended a winding path for the approximately one-third mile trail that would not disturb any large trees or animal habitat. Fifth grader Laney Vanderhart said naturalists from the city parks and recreation department showed students how to mark the path to be cleared. On Saturday, volunteers laid the mulch donated by the city.
"The Montessori philosophy is centered around the idea of authentic experiences in the environment -- in the classroom and outside -- and that children learn best by doing," Mrs. Hover said. "If you're studying living things, you need to be out there with them, not just looking at pictures of them. Luckily, with our land, we're able to do that."
Deer are plentiful on the campus, as are groundhogs -- one of which was spotted scurrying across the grounds during the lunch hour Monday.
Last week, students saw a snake lunching on a live frog during recess and ran to tell their teacher. They all went over to watch what was indeed nature at work -- fascinating, though a little sad too, Mrs. Resler said. That afternoon, about a third of her students chose to write about the unusual incident during their writer's workshop.
"One of the girls wrote, 'I've never seen anything like this. I don't know if I ever will again,' " Mrs. Resler said, adding, "Following our philosophy, we want them to have that sense of wonder. We want them to have that ah-ha, just to feel nature."
Earth Day, which is Sunday, is a day to feel nature.
Started in 1970, Earth Day calls attention to the environment and celebrates the successes in the way we care for it, said Gary Silverman, director of BGSU's Center for Environmental Programs. He cautioned that much progress is yet to be made on issues such as climate change and ever-increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
"We're better at recycling. No question, we recycle more and we don't litter like we used to, but we also use a lot more energy," Mr. Silverman said. "There are a lot of examples of how we're doing worse rather than better."
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.