HACKENSACK -- Sixth-graders from Royalton and their teachers not only had the peak of fall leaf colors, but a sunny day to receive their conservation and natural resource education this year at Deep Portage Conservation Reserve near Hackensack.
They mastered the challenge of the climbing wall inside the addition to Deep Portage.
Then, their classroom became colorful trails through woods and around ponds and bogs. A highlight was watching eagles glide on air currents high above them.
Their Royalton classroom teachers, Marc Fritz, Linda Martin and Patrick Kuklulc, also became students as Deep Portage natural resource instructors took over instruction.
A Royalton School sixth-grader pointed to a sumac branch during a hike around the bog at Deep Portage Conservation Reserve near Hackensack. Andrea Wedul, Deep Portage instructor, explained sumac can be identified as different from similarly shaped leaves on ash trees, because sumac leaves only grow at the top of branches. (Photos by Monica Lundquist)
Andrea Wedul explained how trees draw nutrients through their roots, then up through the under-layer below their bark to feed their leaves in summer.
Trees change these nutrients to starches and sugars to feed themselves, she said. The sugars and starches are stored not only in the upper tree, but also in roots.
In fall, deciduous trees essentially go into hibernation, sending their sugars and starches down to be stored in their truck and roots, Wedul said.
As this liquid syrup sap descends the tree, it can freeze if temperatures dip to zero before the sap reaches the roots. The tree then will explode like a covered glass jar in a freezer, Wedul said.
Leaves that have fallen from the tree begin to decompose at the base of the tree as snow melts and saturates the leaves each spring, Wedul said.
It is the same as if you left a slice of bread on a counter for many days and another in a glass of water. The one in water would get moldy sooner, she said.
For trees the moldy, decomposed leaves at their base leach nutrients into the soil in the spring, which seeps down to tree roots and again begins the cycle of feeding the tree for the next year, Wedul said.
As she helped students identify each tree species by bark and leaves, Wedul also offered other interesting descriptions of what makes each species unique.
White birch, for instance, uses the horizontal lines in the bark like gills on a fish to exhale gases from within the tree and inhale fresh air, she said.
Students from throughout Minnesota, the United States and other countries receive conservation and natural resource education at Deep Portage.
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