Students find science outside
September 29, 2023
It was one of those picture-perfect fall days. Cerulean blue sky, the slight, wet waft of decaying organic matter, the hillsides seemingly turning orange and red and yellow in the moment. On Dunlap Island last Thursday, there was also the chattering of teenagers and outdoors experts as more than 200 ninth-graders from Cloquet High School spent the day exploring the natural world. They were in canoes on the St. Louis River. They were under the Minnesota Highway 35 bridge collecting aquatic insects. They were at tables in the campground, testing water for pH balance and other properties. They successfully fished from the pedestrian bridge.
Science teachers at the high school were joined by outdoors enthusiasts from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Trout Unlimited, and the Carlton Soil and Water Conservation District.
Waves of students were in the park from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., rotating from station to station for nearly three-hour excursions. Matt Winbigler, an earth science teacher, said it was great to get students outside for the event. He wondered aloud just how many people get the opportunity to actually play along the St. Louis River. Students piled into 10-person canoes with guides from Wilderness Inquiry. They cruised from the landing, went upriver, under the pedestrian bridge and around the bend from the USG plant.
The Cloquet Educational Foundation funds the excursion, among many other science initiatives at the school.
Winbigler said the goal for the students, who are all in "Exploring Earth Systems" science classes, is to connect with the local environment, to see their own community in a different light, and to bond among themselves. It didn't hurt that it was a splendid day to be out there, learning away from screens, out of the classroom.
"This experience will hopefully open up student's interest in getting outside and broaden their own view of the role the St. Louis River plays in local recreation, tourism, industry and ecology," Winbigler said.