“It was a great day,” said Patty Deutsche, senior manager/public affairs for Dow. “Energy was high as I led a group of students around our freshwater pond looking for signs of wildlife – and we found it.”
What they found were abandoned birds’ nests, feathers from a red-wing blackbird, owl pellets and gopher holes. They even spotted a peregrine falcon.
“The most common phrase I heard was ‘awesome,’” said Deutsche. “The students got to explore nature up close, hearing the sounds of birds and the wind through the tules.”
Students even formed a giant food web, each child assuming the role of an energy producer, consumer or decomposer. At the end of the exercise, the students came away with a new understanding of how everything in nature is interconnected, and how when one element of the ecosystem is harmed, the impact is felt everywhere.
But the highlight of the trip, according to Deutsche, was the opportunity for the students to play in the “muck.” UC Berkeley Professor Steve Andrews explained what muck – the wetland’s soil – is made of and what lives in it. And the students reveled in their hands-on research.
“At the end of the day, when we asked the students what their favorite part was, the answers were all over the board,” said Deutsche. “Seeing a live peregrine falcon, the pond walk, and of course, the muck. Clearly, there was something for everyone.”
The annual fair is hosted by volunteers from Dow and the community, and is open to schools throughout East County. The wetlands were purchased from U.S. Steel by Dow in 1989 as an environmental buffer zone. The 30-plus member team of Dow employees, retirees and community members continue to monitor the health of the site through enhancements and restoration efforts. The wetlands is open to the community during daylight hours. For more information, visit www.dow.com/pittsburg/wetland/index.htm.