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Outdoors becomes classroom for 6th-graders

ELGIN — A new chapter was added to a cherished tradition at Elgin’s Stella Mayfield School recently.

The 26th edition of Stella Mayfield’s Outdoor School was conducted at the Blue Mountain 4-H Center. About 28 of the school’s sixth-graders attended.

It’s two nights and three days the sixth-graders will remember long after they have forgotten facts they learned in the classroom about history and English.

The students had been eagerly anticipating Outdoor School because of the reputation it has gained.

“It is something they look forward to all year,’’ said Carolyn Erickson, a sixth-grade teacher at Stella Mayfield.

A popular activity at this year’s Outdoor School was the search for a cougar using radio telemetry. A radio collar was placed on a mounted cougar head and then hidden in the surrounding forest.

Students then had to find it using a radio receiver that picked up signals from the collars. Beeps from the transmitter became louder and clearer the closer students got to the cougar head.

The project was led by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist Leonard Erickson, who used the same telemetry equipment he does when tracking real wildlife.

ODFW Biologist Brian Jonasson also assisted at the Outdoor School, teaching a session on aquatic insects.

The U.S. Forest Service’s La Grande Ranger District was represented at the Outdoor School by Mark Penninger, who assisted with instruction.

Stella Mayfield sixth-grade teacher Sandy Rysdam said professionals often tell her they enjoy giving presentations at the Outdoor School because of the students’ responsiveness. Rysdam said she believes this is why they return to give presentations year after year.

Rysdam, Erickson and Metta Williams, also a Stella Mayfield sixth-grade teacher, organize the outdoor school each year. They do so with the help of many volunteers including  Elgin High School students who serve as counselors. EHS students who assisted this year include Beija Robbins, Kimberlie Graffunder, Chantele Malone, Peyton Mathis, Bailey Wilhelm, Karly Knapp, Rachel Chandler, Blaine Baker, Jimmy Ludwig, Kyle Miller and Justis Weaver.



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