NEW BUFFALO — The Mighty Acorns program returned after a year and a half hiatus on Friday, Oct. 8, in the great outdoors behind New Buffalo Elementary.

“We protect land, we protect forests, and the animals and plants that live there,” said Chikaming Open Lands Education and Outreach Coordinator Casey Struecker while beginning an Oct. 8 session with third-graders (one of whom added “water” to the list).

“The Mighty Acorns program is all about exploring the local, natural areas around us,” she said.

New Buffalo pupils (in the third, fourth and fifth grades) do their exploring in COL’s Turtle Creek Preserve and the adjacent district-owned land behind the school.

Struecker noted that this will be the first Mighty Acorns year for both third and fourth-graders.

“It’s great to jump back into it, everyone’s super-excited,” she said.

Bridgman Elementary’s Mighty Acorns field trips (third- and fourth-graders) are held at the Jens Jensen Preserve in Sawyer.

Although River Valley Elementary is not conducting fall field trips, that district’s Mighty Acorns COL preserve is Robinson near Lakeside.

Mighty Acorns engages students and teachers in field studies and hands-on learning opportunities created by The Nature Conservancy. It consists of both in-class work and field trips to local natural areas (led by Chikaming Open Lands personnel with community volunteers helping out).

Elementary school teachers handle the classroom work.

Each participant has a Nature Exploration Backpack (supplied through a grant from the Harbor Country Rotary Club for River Valley and New Buffalo, and the Lakeshore Rotary Club for Bridgman Elementary) filled with magnifying glasses, bug boxes, field guides, notebooks, portable habitats and those monoculars.

Students divide into three groups which rotate between exploration, stewardship and a fun game designed to impart knowledge about the natural world.

Struecker led a “Who has a Better Beak” game on Oct. 8 that teaches about the beaks birds use to eat various types of food. The game consisted of stations providing practical methods of replicating how different birds consume everything from mice to seeds using their specially adapted beaks.

Students also explored the Turtle Creek woods and gathered seeds from a native prairie area on the other side of the school for re-planting.

A thunderstorm cut the Oct. 8 session short, but each third-grader got to experience one of the rotations with a new date set to continue the educational fun.

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