As I tried to put together this article it became clear to me that your local Soil and Water Conservation District is definitely “one stop shopping” for conservation education. While it all changes at the county line, there are many common threads among us as well.
The Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District is fortunate to have an educational land lab — Hazel Willis Woods. What a great opportunity to explore the outdoors, be able to make noise without disrupting neighbors and most of all, have fun!
Walter Willis gifted this 40-acre wooded area to the district back in 1980. It was left in loving memory of his wife, Hazel, and specified that the land must be used as an outdoor educational laboratory for all ages.
While very primitive, the woods offers hands-on experiences with wildlife, soils, dendrology, botany and water quality. It is truly inspiring to see a child find their first deer track, smell a torn leaf of a garlic plant or do a bark rubbing of that oh so special tree.
I realize during moments like this how much I take for granted that nature is right at my doorstep. I was born and raised on a dairy farm, and continue to live on a dairy farm with my family. We can at any time look out the window over fields and valleys and observe nature at work.
I am very certain that my role is to not only pass along to my children an appreciation for our land and natural resources, but also to help others develop that same appreciation with our land lab. Many soil and water conservation districts own and operate land labs. Please take advantage of these areas. I know this is what Mr. Willis always hoped for.
In addition to land labs, educational tools for youth and adults can be found in the form of classroom presentations as well as brochures and pamphlets.
The enviroscape, ground water model, septic model, educational trunks, kick seine nets, rain garden displays, rain barrels and soil monoliths are just of few of the displays and/or models that your local soil and water conservation district can bring to you to help teach water quality and conservation.
In our northeast area we are very excited about our brand new educational tool, S.K. Worm. S.K. stands for Scientific Knowledge. He is a 6-foot tall museum quality animatronics model of a worm coming out of a detailed soil monolith.
S.K. worm has been pre-programmed to interact with the instructor. The presentation reinforces the Ohio Department of Education benchmarks for earth and space science as they relate to soils in a fun and informative way students are sure to remember. This is a great way to present a three-dimensional, lifelike visual of basic soil concepts.
Do you know what the acronym D.I.R.T. stands for? What are the components of soil? If you are interested in more information on S.K. worm please contact your local SWCD office. Staff must be certified and trained in order to bring S.K. to your area, and a small fee may be charged.
S.K. will be on display at our Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District Annual Meeting Aug. 15 at the Ashland County West Holmes Career Center from 1-3 p.m. This event is free and open to all.
If you are interested in attending or would like more information, call our office at 419-281-7645.
The next time you are looking for a great educational activity or assistance on most anything, call or visit your local Soil and Water Conservation District. There is a whole world of conservation education waiting for you.
(Cathy Berg is the program administrator for the Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District. Berg has a bachelor’s degree in science from The Ohio State University, with a major in agronomy with soils specialization and a minor in natural resources management.)