By Kurt Madar

Pilot staff writer

The excited chatter of Kalmiopsis Elementary School third graders was punctuated by the earsplitting howl of an air horn letting them know it was time to switch stations during the annual Brookings-Harbor Resource Day on Friday, May 23.

The 120 students went to Alfred A. Loeb State Park to spend half the day rotating through six stations that provided hands-on learning about the natural resources of the Chetco Watershed.

andquot;I thought it went really well,andquot; said David Grimes who was manning the rock identification station. andquot;It always goes well if the weather is nice. The kids all had smiles, which is usually the best indicator.andquot;

Natural Resource Day is an outdoor education day held in May each year in the Chetco River watershed. Originally established as a U.S. Forest Service activity, it was taken over in 2007 by Brookings-Harbor educators and community volunteers. Last weeks events were organized by Cathy Boden of the South Coast, and Lower Rogue, Watershed Councils.

The volunteers were from coast communities including members of the Chetco River Watershed Council and South Coast Watershed Council. They shared their expertise on topics ranging from art to the importance of riparian areas in a watershed.

The workshops for this year's Resource Day included fish painting with artist Don Jenson, animals with Jenna Ryan of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Native Americans with Linda Timeus, a plant identification and natural history hike with Angela Stewart of Oregon State Parks, forestry management with members of the U.S. Forest Service, rock identification and painting with community member David Grimes and his wife Emily and macro-invertebrates with Statia Ryder of the South Coast Watershed Council.

At the animal station students gathered around a picnic table covered with bones and antlers. The children gathered in a circle around the table were both fascinated and repelled as Ryan described the vertebrate life of the Chetco watershed in broad strokes.

At the macro-invertebrate station a young girl calmly told a classmate, andquot;it' not gross, it's alive.andquot;

The students, in groups of eight or nine, spent approximately 15 minutes at each station. At the macro-invertebrate station, Ryder talked about the insects that live in the Chetco River and provide food for various species of fish. The third graders got to catch insects and even minnows in plastic containers while Ryder lectured on life cycles and identified the various organisms.

andquot;It's just really important for the kids to have a working knowledge of the things going on in the Chetco watershed,andquot; Grimes said, looking back on the successful day.