KBOCC students explore local wetlands

Feb 25th, 2013 | By | Category: 24-3: The Science of Place, Tribal College News

Place-based learning activities are a key component of environmental science courses at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College (KBOCC, Baraga, MI). Students benefit from KBOCC’s rural setting and the surrounding forests, water, and wetlands. They regularly identify hands-on outdoor activities as those they enjoy the most.

“Most of our students grew up in this area and are very familiar with its natural features,” notes environmental science Department Chair Andrew Kozich. “They hike the woods, fish the streams, and swim in the lakes,” he says. “It’s easy for them to make connections between these familiar places and key learning objectives of their courses. When we can get outdoors, their attendance and interest improve along with their test scores.”

During the summer 2012 semester, students in Wetlands (ES242) spent most of their class time outdoors exploring the area’s rich wetland ecosystems. Wetlands provide many important values for wildlife and are also habitat for plant species such as wild rice and northern white cedar that are sacred to the Ojibwa community. A key objective of the course was to classify and describe the entire range of wetland types found across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. These studies were highlighted by a class trip to the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, a 95,000- acre refuge comprised predominantly of wetland ecosystems. Students culminated their experiences by creating an educational poster, titled “Characterizing Wetland Communities of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” which will be displayed across campus and at community events.

“The Wetlands students remark to me on a regular basis that they enjoyed that class more than any other they’ve ever taken,” says Kozich. “They were definitely enthusiastic throughout the semester and didn’t mind getting wet and dirty. They demonstrated a strong command of course concepts. Wetlands don’t tend to receive much appreciation from the general public, but the students now recognize their values very well.”

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