Kimailett Galindo (second from left) shows a Hickory nut she found on her tree hunt through the arboretum to (from left) Isabel Nocelotl, Jefferson Elementary first-grade teacher Erica Merchant, Brooke Lehne, Aryanna Hurtado and Bickelhaupt Arboretum volunteer Liz Clements.

The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

CLINTON — Jefferson Elementary School first-graders explored the grounds of the Bickelhaupt Arboretum on Tuesday afternoon, hunting for trees.

The class was the last of 14 the arboretum has conducted this spring in conjunction with the Clinton School District Education Foundation. These classes were offered to all Clinton school district first-graders. The program began this fall with classes offered to second- and third-grade students.

Francie Hill of the Bickelhaupt Arboretum said they decided they wanted to offer a program to the Clinton School District. Volunteers worked to set the program to follow curriculum requirements directed by the district’s curriculum director, Deb Olson.

Tuesday’s class began with volunteers Marion Johnson and Liz Clements leading a lesson on plants. They discussed the various parts of a plant and their functions, encouraging the students to make guesses and comments. Johnson highlighted vocabulary like diversity, deciduous and conifers. The children repeated these words often and learned deciduous trees lose their leaves, while conifers’ needles do not fall out.

After the lesson, the student were broken into two groups, each led by a volunteer and given pictures of various trees at the arboretum. The groups then went on a tree hunt, looking for the tree in each child’s picture.

Olson said the program is lucky to have volunteers from the arboretum who have teaching experience, like Johnson and feels this program teaches children something different and offers them an experience they may not have otherwise.

“There’s so many diverse plant species that they would never see in their backyard,” said Olson.

She said these classes also promote the importance of being a good citizen and caring for the environment. She said she hopes the students bring the terms they learned at the class home and continue to use them.

The costs of the program are funded through donations given to the Clinton School District Education Foundation. The arboretum hopes to add fourth-grade classes next spring as well as to continue first-grade classes. Taryn Determan, director of the Clinton School District Education Foundation, said more donations are needed for this program.

“We want to continue this and the only way to continue this is through donations,” said Determan.

Donations can be made to the foundation by calling 243-9600, extension 37.

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