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Nature comes alive at Grand River Park

Matt DeYoung • May 16, 2018 at 2:00 PM

GEORGETOWN TWP. — Jess Sory loves to explore the outdoors, and in her role as a county park naturalist, she gets the chance to pass that passion on to others.

On Monday, dozens of White Pines Intermediate School fifth-graders visited Ottawa County’s Grand River Park near Jenison. They had the opportunity to see various ecological systems at the park, and also took a cruise down the Grand River aboard the Grand Lady Riverboat. 

Sory took the opportunity to challenge the students’ thinking as they explored the park. 

“I just want to share my passion with nature, and I would love to foster that in these kids,” said the fourth-year Ottawa County Parks naturalist. “Kids miss a lot of outdoor experiences now that used to be common.”

Sory led a group of students into a meadow at the park and helped them conduct numerous experiments, from taking soil samples and temperature readings to using their senses and recording what they saw, heard, felt and smelled. 

At one point, Sory stopped talking and cocked her head. 

“Did anyone else hear that?” she asked, moments after the call of a barred owl echoed faintly out of the trees. 

After exploring the meadow, students walked to the riverbank, where they boarded the Grand Lady, a 105-foot-long, two-story riverboat

The boat, propelled up and down the river by a pair of giant gleaming red paddlewheels, took students downstream, where they were treated to an up-close look at bald eagles — including a nest containing three young eaglets — along with countless turtles and several species of birds that make their home along the river. All the while, park naturalists guide the students’ attention to interesting points along the tour. 

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