CADILLAC — Twenty-one second graders at Mesick Consolidated Schools graduated as junior forest rangers on Friday during a special ceremony at the elementary school.

Roxie Arnott and her second graders participated in a classroom-based presentation of the junior forest ranger program, created by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Arnott coordinated with the organization to create a supplement to the common core curriculum mandated by the Michigan State Board of Education, according to a press release.

“When the school reached out to our agency for assistance, the first thing we asked for was lesson plans to help find everyday natural resource experiences to reinforce what the kids were learning through reading and math,‘ said Wildfire Prevention Education and Mitigation Specialist Debra-Ann Brabazon.

Brabazon attended the ceremony along with Forest Service junior ranger volunteers from the Cadillac High School’s Ecology Club, Spencer Richardson and Juli-Ann Lang.

“Just like the snowflakes we crafted together during the winter, each one of us is special in our own unique way,‘ Richardson said. “And while each person has different beliefs and thoughts, which is completely OK, we all found a common belief in the importance of preserving our environment.‘

During the program, students completed educational programs focused on trees, plants, fire, weather, migration, settlers and bats.

“These programs showed students how they interact with natural resources every day and why those resources are important to local communities,‘ Brabazon said.

Kile Charnes, the school’s principal, said the students loved the program and it did a good job relating to the school’s curriculum.

The kids were excited to learn about bats and “everything nature‘ and they would always be excited when the program’s crew was coming in, he said.

Brabazon said they integrated stuff into what was already being taught. When the kids were learning about mammals, she taught them about bats. When they were learning about plants it fit in with their reading requirement for the month.

Jennifer Smith, the mom of junior forest ranger Alayna Smith, said her daughter learned all sorts of new things through the program.

At home she would identify trees and share with her family how to have a safe bonfire. She was proud of her daughter for graduating from the program, she said.

Alayna said she felt good about graduating and she had learned about lots of stuff like bats. Her favorite part was learning about snowflakes, because “snowflakes are cool.‘

Brabazon said by taking this program and adding it to the class, they were engaging the youth on their stomping ground.

“This is our future,‘ she said.

These kids are the summer interns, volunteers and rangers of the future. Why not engage with them now to get them interested in the environment, she said.

“I trust that you’ll do great things and never stop learning about the world around you,‘ she told the students.

Cadillac News