Through the after-school Nature’s Ninjas club, GHCS sixth-graders visit and learn from naturalists about different ecosystems during several trips.
The program is part of the Lakeshore Environmental Education Program (LEEP), which is organized through Wetland Watch.
GHCS fifth-grade teacher Bob Koning said he wanted to start the program because he believes the best way for students to learn about nature and God’s creation is by getting kids out in the environment.
Sixth-grader Libby Miedema said she got involved in the program because she wanted to learn more about God’s creatures.
The group’s first excursion involved taking the W.G. Jackson onto Muskegon Lake, where they learned about freshwater ecosystems — plankton, algae and invasive species — as well as the impact humans have on it. Sixth-grader Makenna Sytsma said they were able to see the plankton by looking at water samples under microscopes aboard the Grand Valley State University research vessel.
One of the things William Ripple said he’s learned through the program is that cattails filter water.
During the group’s visit to the DeGraaf Nature Center in Holland, they learned about producers, consumers, carnivores, herbivores, food chains, decomposers and food webs.
Wetland Watch President Leslie Newman said part of her group’s mission is to educate the next generation to care for the environment, see its beauty, and to value and protect it.
Walden Green Montessori School and Spring Lake Middle School are also offering LEEP programs this fall. In the spring, West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics, White Pines Intermediate School, and Spring Lake Middle School will also offer LEEP programs. Newman said they’re also working to have the program offered at Lakeshore Middle School.
In the coming weeks, Nature’s Ninjas have a schedule filled with visits and learning opportunities. At the county’s Pigeon Creek Park, they will learn about animal habitats and the impact of humans on animal life. The visit to P.J. Hoffmaster State Park will include learning about dune ecosystems. At Hofma Park, they will learn about wetland ecosystems and cleaning up the Witteveen Property. The group will also visit Hemlock Crossing to learn about life cycles of plants and animals, as well as how to make a difference there.
As the Nature’s Ninjas continue learning about the environment, they encourage the community to recycle and pick up any garbage they see.
“Get out and enjoy nature because it’s there for you,” sixth-grader Ellie Dyk said.