Fourth Graders Explore Life in Creeks, Prairies, and Forests

By Laura Pupillo, Lower School Science Teacher

The forest, prairie, and creek are full of life! Fourth-grade students have been venturing to Litzsinger Road Ecology Center (LREC) in Ladue this week to answer the question: What life is present in a creek, prairie, and forest? In class, we’re wrapping up our study of food chains, teeth, and the power of plants, and visiting Litzsinger was such a nice way to bring more life to our studies. 

Students broke off into groups and partnered with the wonderful LREC volunteers. In small groups, students reviewed terms such as producer, consumer, scavenger, and decomposer. They then searched for evidence of these different groups and noted what they saw. They learned about some new plants such as Cup Plant and Rattlesnake Master, and they saw evidence of deer, turkeys, and raccoons after finding the tracks they left behind. 

Under decaying logs, we observed colonies of sowbugs, beetles, ants, and fungi of all shapes, sizes, and colors. We thought it was interesting how fungi can flourish in different environments and loved spotting the many logs lined with turkey tail mushrooms. 

A favorite overall was certainly the decomposition forest scavenger hunt where students crawled on their bellies seeing the world from the eyes of a decomposer. “Leaves are huge!” they thought. We loved sorting leaves based on decomposition while feeling and smelling the forest floor. We all agreed—the smell was earthy! 

As we hiked along, we found the remains of an animal and were able to examine the teeth to determine we had found an herbivore. Based on the size and what students remembered from previous studies, we all agreed we had found a deer. Students noticed the bones were clean and absent of any remaining fur. They also noticed that parts of the bones had bite marks and that many of the bones were missing. This led us to a great discussion about what happened to the deer and how the bones are still providing resources to other animals. 

In addition to our learning goals for the day, students found a multitude of other treasures: creek glass, fossils, and interesting seed pods. We collected small finds to make a tree cookie to showcase our curiosity and couldn’t wait to share our favorite discovery. This was our second time visiting LREC and I couldn’t help but appreciate just how engaged the students were in this environment. Sometimes you just have to get outside to really learn, and this trip was great evidence of that!