This week, fifth graders at Woodward Elementary School in Delaware spent two days at the Stratford Ecological Center learning about plants, animals and nature’s cycles.
Fifth grade teacher Robert Sexton was one of the organizers of the trip. He said fifth grade students had been coming to Stratford as part of a field trip for years, and the school planned to make it a regular yearly trip before the pandemic put those plans on hold.
“It’s got a great deal of science standards built into the program here,” Sexton said. “The students are getting a firsthand, hands-on experience. … This is part of our return to normalcy.”
Sexton said fifth grade science includes many lessons about nature’s cycles like seasons or the water cycle. He added students will spend two days at Stratford now and then spend another few days at the center in February to see those cycles firsthand.
“By coming out at different times we are able to see the same barn, the same field, the same creek in the different seasons,” Sexton said. “We’re seeing these cycles in action, in snapshots. Stratford gives us the opportunity to do that. This program is 100% Stratford’s. We’re just participating.”
Sexton said when the students visit in February, they will learn about how to harvest maple syrup and see the center in an entirely different light.
“They’ll get a real sense of what it takes to harvest syrup,” Sexton said. “(The trip will) highlight changes in the environment. There’s no comparison (to what could be learned with a textbook), especially when you’re talking about a cycle. You have to see it at different points and really care about it, like it’s something that has relevance to you. If you’ve never seen these things or been in these environments, then all the videos in the world aren’t going to make them feel relevant to you. … They might as well be on the other side of the world as opposed to right here in the community.”
Sexton said his favorite part of the trip was seeing students learn about the creek at Stratford up close.
“There’s something magical about getting kids from the city in rubber boots and telling them they can walk in the creek,” he said.
The trip was a hit with fifth grader Kelmaries Duran, who said she enjoyed walking in the creek and learning about the animals.
“I liked the chickens (and) seeing what they eat,” Duran said. “I like that this was in the woods because we can explore more and learn more about the animals.”
Addison Pounds, a fellow fifth grader, said she enjoyed learning about farm animals.
“I learned that when you pick up a chicken, you have to hold their wings,” Pounds said. “I liked that we got to see all the animals on the farm.”
Sexton said the he hopes to continue the trips in the future, which were made possible through financial donations.
“It can be expensive to bring the kids out here for five school days,” Sexton said. “Providing the funding is there, we’ll continue. We’ve been fortunate to have funding available to us. We’re grateful (for that) funding. The donors have been so generous. This is a group that really benefits from it.”