Ecology brings students a nontraditional learning environment

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Ecology brings students a nontraditional learning environment

Ecology students put waiters on and jumped into Minnehaha Creek to collect macroinvertebrate samples.

Ecology students put waiters on and jumped into Minnehaha Creek to collect macroinvertebrate samples.

John Porish

Ecology students put waiters on and jumped into Minnehaha Creek to collect macroinvertebrate samples.

John Porish

John Porish

Ecology students put waiters on and jumped into Minnehaha Creek to collect macroinvertebrate samples.

Blake Mesenburg, Staff Writer

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Led by Mr. John Porisch, the ecology class is a nontraditional class that spends a significant amount of time outdoors in nature.

The class goes outside at least once a week––usually on block days––to study Minnesota’s great outdoors including birds, trees, plants, and fish. “In our short class time, I tell my students to walk fast, and I have a purpose and know what I want to cover before class starts. I also like to leave some wiggle room in case we encounter something unexpected. For example, last week we got to watch a wild turkey,” Porisch said.

This class enjoys many outdoor activities including going on plant or bird walk and taking trips to Minnehaha Creek where the students put waiters on and jump in the river to collect macroinvertebrate samples and learn more about their local bodies of water. “My favorite part about this class is when we get to put on the waiters and jump in the creek. I like how it is a hands-on experience. We get to search and collect samples of macroinvertebrates and sometimes we will catch some fish,” Charlie Warnert said.

My favorite part about this class is when we get to put on the waiters and jump in the creek. I like how it is a hands-on experience. We get to search and collect samples of macroinvertebrates and sometimes we will catch some fish”

— Charlie Warnert

Students go into the class believing they are going to learn about different organisms and be able to spend a lot of time outside. Porisch not only wants his students to learn about ecology, but he also wants to teach his students to understand the true value of the great outdoors. “I want my students to not forget where we come from. We have that connection, in some way, to the first folks who came to this state and took care of this land. I want them to learn to appreciate the outdoors and be good stewards for those who follow,” Porisch said.

For hands-on learners, the ecology class offers an alternative learning model that brings students closer to the topic they are studying. It also allows for those that enjoy the study of nature to make connections between the things that they do in the classroom and activities they are passionate about outside the classroom. “I am able to bring my past knowledge and apply it to what we are learning about. I enjoy pushing myself to learn more about the topic because I am interested in the things we discover outside. I also like to hunt and fish and I see a connection in the things I am learning about in ecology class,” Nick Peterson said.

Along with teaching ecology, Porisch teaches a more traditional class, biology. Being able to go outside to teach some of his classes is very relaxing. It is a healthy learning style for him and his students. After spending some time outside getting some fresh air, they are able to bring more energy into the classroom. “It makes for healthy teaching and learning for my students because we are able to get out of our seats and go outside for a while. It allows for more engagement in the classroom,” Porisch said.

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