Pumpkin project at Northwest Trek combines learning and fun — for kids and animals
Third-graders from Weyerhaeuser Elementary School in Eatonville harvest pumpkins at Northwest Trek that they grew themselves from seed, under the guidance of Northwest Trek horticulturalist Jake Pool. Varieties were specifically chosen by Pool for nutritional qualities and taste for animals.
"Best recess ever." Indeed. And a learning experience, too!
Last spring, second-graders at Weyerhaeuser Elementary in Eatonville started pumpkins, corn and squash from seed, then transplanted them into a garden at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, with the help of Northwest Trek horticulturalist Jake Pool.
This month, students returned to Northwest Trek, harvested the crops and offered them as a treat — or for fun enrichment — to resident otters, wolves and grizzly bears.
It’s part of a multiyear community project between Pool and the school, which has a strong focus on outdoor STEM learning, including a greenhouse and an on-site forest where students learn animal and plant biology.
During their visit to Northwest Trek, they also learned about animals' diets, adaptations and behaviors as they watched otters push pumpkins off logs and play with them. They watched (from a safe distance) as wolves as grizzlies hunted for the pumpkins they had hidden.
“Outdoor science is so important,” said school Principal Linn Ames. “It shows these students how we can all work together (for wildlife), and how everything is connected. And it sparks their curiosity to get hands-on with science – not just hearing and reading it, but actually doing it.”
It was a bumper crop, and the rest of the truckload of pumpkins will be given to animals at Northwest Trek's annual Pumpkin Chomp ‘n’ Stomp event, open to the public Oct. 26-27.
Go here for more details about Northwest Trek. Located in Eatonville, it's roughly a 90-minute drive from Seattle.