LABELLE -- The 13th Annual “Call of the Wild” Earth Week field trips were conducted by experts in their field. Over 600 second, third and fourth-grade students from Country Oaks Elementary, LaBelle Elementary and Upthegrove Elementary rotated through five fun and educational stations during this year’s “Call of the Wild” Earth Week Field Trip event April 18-20 at the Captain Hendry House and LaBelle Rotary Nature Park in LaBelle. The weather prevented West Glades students from participating in this year’s activities, however they received materials provided by generous sponsors.
Station #1 featured a walk through the woods. Every year the Florida Forest Service leads enthusiastic students on the “Call of the Wild Nature Walk” through the LaBelle Rotary Park Nature Park. During the hike Clark Ryals, Senior Forester from the Caloosahatchee Forest District pointed out native and non-native plants, discussed gopher tortoises living in the park, took students to an ancient live oak tree and for a quick view of the Caloosahatchee. The LaBelle Rotary Nature Park is open year-round during daylight hours for public use.
Station #2 was presented by Director Bob Pastula and Adrian Damms from Hendry County Emergency Management organized the “Fire and Safety” presentation, featuring information on the Hendry County Emergency Operations Center and the Hendry County Emergency Management. There were also deputies from the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office, the LaBelle Fire Department and the Clewiston Fire Department to help students understand the inner workings of the public safety agencies that are committed to serving the community. During the week students learned about the fire and safety resources in our area and how fire, EMS and law enforcement work together for their benefit. There were opportunities for students to talk with representatives from the fire departments, Sheriff's Office and EMS and to learn about career opportunities while investigating the fire apparatus, police vehicles and ambulance equipment that is utilized by the various departments.
Station #3, “Eagles” was presented by Becky Rhodes who volunteers with the Audubon, Fla., Eagle Watch Program. This program provided valuable information on nesting activity and current population trends of eagles in Florida. Volunteers monitor one or more nearby eagle nests. These observations help eagle biologists determine the best conservation measures to ensure the success of the species. Additionally, the reports may be used by law enforcement agencies to prevent any harm to the birds and their nesting sites. The presentation for the students included personal photos of a Port LaBelle nest showing the effects of Hurricane Ian and age-appropriate information about raising their young. Students were also treated to a walk through the historic Captain Hendry House.
Station # 4, “Fallen Logs” activity presented by Scott Cooper and Dr. Susan Cooper and assisted by FSW students Elizabeth Raya and Isabel Butz, engaged students in observing the wide variety of plants and animals living in a rotting log microhabitat. Students were asked to observe and ask questions about a native Florida orchid, resurrection ferns, and an assortment of bromeliads, fungi, mosses and lichens. Students also learned about the importance of decomposition in our environment at this station.
Station #5 was presented by The Hendry County IFAS Extension 4-H who have participated in all 13 of the “Call of the Wild” field trips. Sonja Crawford, Gwen Ash, Liz Shaw and Patricia Gonzales presented the “Butterflies” station. The students learned about the life cycle of butterflies, viewed live caterpillars and butterflies and learned interesting butterfly facts. The highlight of this station was learning about the parts of butterflies and each student making their own butterfly model.
Thanks and appreciation are extended to everyone who provided materials and donated services to make this a successful event. The LaBelle Rotary provided funding for the buses for LaBelle Elementary and Country Oaks students. The following also helped with this annual event: City of LaBelle, Hendry/LaBelle Recreation, Hendry County Special Districts & Recycling, LaBelle Kiwanis, Hendry County Soil and Conservation District, Florida Southwest College student volunteers, Musco Sports Lightning, Hendry County Health Department, LaBelle Elementary Earth Week Poster, and three donors who provided funding for the porta potty rental. Other businesses provided giveaway items for students and teachers.