St. Joseph Catholic STEM School students enjoyed their last day of school before MEA weekend on the bike trail. Over 100 children, grades Kindergarten to eighth-grade, took a field trip to Lowry Nature Center and spent their day exercising and learning about the amazing natural resources in the area.

This educational adventure began in a familiar way: Morning Mass… but with a twist. The students, teachers, and parent chaperones experienced Mass outside, led by Fr. Stan Mader, Pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church. Like any other Mass the students attend, student participation is vibrant: First-grade students leading the readings and Mr. Sean Barker, Director of Music and Liturgy, accompanying the service. “Mass with music as the sun was coming up [at Parley Picnic Area] was awesome!” affirmed Janice Matlon, Middle School Science teacher.

The day was preset by Lowry Nature Center staff to expose students to many different learning experiences. From learning about bird species to geocaching with their classmates, the students explored the local trails. “I learned how you can identify trees,” said Palmer C, fourth-grade student. “Now I can find a bur oak by looking at the trunk, bark, and leaves.” Soleil E, seventh-grade student, followed her by sharing, “The bumps on leaves are called ‘lobes’ and they can be pointed or rounded.”

“My favorite part was when we got to walk through the old house,” stated Miles N, sixth-grade student, referring to the Grimm Farm in the park. According to historical record, The Grimm Farm was purchased by German settlers Wendelin and Julianna Grimm in 1859. The family soon established the well-known selection practice, called seed saving, resulting in plants grown specifically to survive the harsh Minnesota winter. “The alfalfa just kept growing!” said Luke B, third-grade student. “And alfalfa is good for dairy cows,” contributed Ruby D, second-grade student, explaining how the family cared for their cows. Students were able to explore the house and learn common chores and games of the 19th century.

Students of all ages were captivated by the Raptor Program at Auburn Campground Amphitheater. “Did you know raptors have better eyesight than us?” asserted Noah W, eighth-grade student, to which Cora R, seventh-grade student supported, “they can see four times as far as people!”

“The naturalists did a wonderful job with the kids and the owl trainer certainly had the kids’ attention,” said Mr. Shawn Sutherland, Athletic Director and field trip coordinator.

Between the overwhelming support of the parent chaperones and the help of the staff, the students enjoyed their special Bike Day at Lowry Nature Center. “They were very excited because the Nature Center had never done anything like this before for such a large group,” mentioned Sutherland. “They put together the classes, coordinated the schedule of the day, and even rode the bike route with us before the field trip to test how long the trails would take to ride… they were incredible!”

“I would recommend to anyone who wants to get some exercise and learn about the resources we have near us to visit the Lowry Nature Center! My vision was to have our students experience things that are around us and the Nature Center staff was tremendous in making that happen,” Sutherland said. “It was a great educational day for our students so, a big thanks to them for everything they did!”

To learn more about the Lowry Nature Center, visit https://www.threeriversparks.org/location/lowry-nature-center.

To learn more about St. Joseph Catholic STEM School, visit https://school.stjosephwaconia.org/.

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