By SUSAN SCHELL
Third-graders from Kalmiopsis Elementary school wrapped up the end of the school year with some hands-on lessons in nature.
The school bus did not have to go far to transport the students to the lush outdoor environment of Loeb State Park.
The students split up into groups and visited marked stations set up on different topics such as plant identification, streams and rocks, tree measurements, wildlife and the Chetco Tribe.
The project was a collaborative effort between the school, Forest Service rangers and volunteer students from the Hanscam Center.
Rangers taught the students how to measure trees, avoid poisonous shrubs and what types of vegetation humans could eat if they had to survive in the forest.
Farrin Messerli, Matt Patten and Amanda Wolfe nibbled on a piece of oxalis, an edible ground cover that resembles a large-leaf clover. "It tastes nasty," said Wolfe.
"It's sour," said Patten.
Messerli had a different opinion altogether, "I think it tastes pretty good."
Judith Fry, the leader of the Chetco Tribe of Southern Oregon, made a special appearance for the children.
Fry had her own station set up displaying Native American baskets, instruments, jewelry and clothing.
Fry showed the students a ceremonial rattle made from bear teeth and claws.
"This was obviously a very big bear," she said. "Something I wouldn't want to meet in the woods."
"The men like to make a lot of noise during their ceremonies," she said. "The women are much more subtle."
Fry then gave a musical demonstration; chanting and pounding a hand drum made of deer rawhide and cedar wood. The sound of the drum reverberating through the trees seemed to blend in with the surroundings and could be heard down by the river.
"The kids loved it," said Fry. "It was wonderful. They were in awe of the arrowheads. Each one wanted to take the acorns home."
One of the activities was a volunteer-led hike down the Riverview Trail, a winding trail that parallels the river.
The students were given a sheet of typed information describing some of the sights they would see along the way.
Volunteer Racheal Dowler said, "We thought this would be an interesting end-of-school project because it's fun and educational. I would want this for my kids."
When the group approached certain items on the sheet, students were given the chance to read the sheet aloud to their peers.
"It's good to let the children read instead of a head person," Dowler said.
Volunteer Jamie Bigelow stopped and pointed out a fallen tree with several other trees growing out of it. "This is my favorite part of the hike right here," she explained.
"You see, this tree fell, but other life continues to grow from it."