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Kelly Smith and Mila Koumpilova, Published September 27 2009

K12 Notebook: Frazee-Vergas students take science outdoors

On Monday and Tuesday, Frazee-Vergas elementary students will desert their classrooms en masse. The exodus is part a long-standing tradition of science inquiry that takes them to the school’s 240-acre school forest.

In that unspoiled setting, sixth-graders will teach their younger fellow students about more than 20 animals native to Minnesota – from white-tailed deer to garter snakes – their habitats, their diets and their enemies in the animal kingdom.

The students also will give educational tours of the forest, which the school has enjoyed since the 1980s as part of a state program.

“This program has been one of our gems,” says Troy Haugen, dean of students at the elementary.

The public is welcome to tag along. The presentations are from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.

The forest is located about 5 miles from Frazee in Burlington Township, Becker County. For more detailed directions, call Haugen at (218) 334-3181, ext. 4625.

District students also plant and prune trees in the forest and go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing come winter.

The Frazee-Vergas sixth-grade nature guides know their stuff. Last year, they got the fifth-highest scores in Minnesota on the state’s science assessment. They researched their animals online and created posters with images of them in different stages of development.

“Learning in the forest is fun because you are learning new information all the time without sitting down,” says sixth-grader Tim Haugen (no relation to the dean of students).

Heidi Graham, the Frazee-Vergas science teacher in charge of the project, says the outdoor experiences help students buy into the concept of conservation.

“They experience the beauty of nature and appreciate the splendor of it,” says Graham, last year’s elementary teacher of the year in the district. “They understand what they’re trying to protect and save.”

Teen honored by MYP

West Fargo High School senior Dakota Rohrich was the sole student recognized Sept. 17 at the Metro Youth Partnership’s annual fundraiser.

She received the “Keeper of the Flame” award for her demonstration of a healthy lifestyle.

“Dakota just seemed to personify so much of what it is,” said Executive Director Barry Nelson. “She got a standing ovation – it was so powerful.”

Fargo teacher honored

Fargo North High School marketing teacher Craig Erickson was honored this week for being one of four finalists for the state’s Teacher of the Year title.

“You are the type of person, type of teacher the board wants to have teaching our students and being a role model for our students,” School Board President Dan Fremling told Erickson before giving him a plaque in his honor.

The other finalists are Grand Forks teacher Max Laird, DesLacs-Burlington teacher Mary Eldredge-Sandbo and Northwood teacher Mike Voglewede.

The winner will be announced at the North Dakota Education Association’s annual conference Oct. 22 in Grand Forks.

“This is the most humbling experience of my life,” Erickson told them. “I’m really blessed to be here and working with the people I get to.”

Readers can reach Forum reporters Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515 and Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5524