Education

Published on May 23rd, 2017 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Irmo Middle School students get hands-on with nature

COLUMBIA – Irmo Middle School students were in for a wild surprise when they walked into Will Green’s seventh grade science class recently. As part of their unit on ecology, Green invited Education Outreach Coordinator Sean Poppy from the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory to visit his class.

The room filled with gasps and a few squirms as Poppy handled a selection of amphibians and reptiles, a raptor and two mammals for the students to observe. Students learned about the animals’ camouflage and natural defenses, habitats and how they care for their young. Visiting animals included a frog, a lizard, turtles, snakes, alligators, an owl, a possum and even a coyote.

Poppy said, “We have a lot of unique animals, a lot of biodiversity around us and it’s a privilege to live in the southeast with such amazing wildlife.”

Students were able to handle a snake and two alligators, but were reminded to not interfere in nature. Student Molly Smith explained, “I learned that different animals are best to be left alone in the wild, and if you mess with them you could hurt our environment.”

Hands-on experience is the norm for Green’s class. As part of the school wide International Academic Magnet program at Irmo Middle School, each grade level focuses on a different year-long project, or expedition. Green’s students have been working on Migration Nation, studying how habitat loss has caused the monarch butterfly population to dwindle.

“I see it in the students’ eyes that this is a cause for them to get behind,” said Green. “They get really passionate about it. It becomes a big deal to them because it’s an opportunity to make a difference in the world.”

During the monarch’s migration season in the fall, students partnered with Monarch Watch to tag butterflies with stickers for tracking during their journey south. Students also educated the community on the importance of milkweed, a plant needed for monarchs to lay eggs. They planted milkweed at Saluda Shoals Park and Irmo Community Park, sold milkweed at local events and wrote a children’s book on monarch butterflies to donate to every elementary school in School District Five.

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