Westview’s Freshman Honors English class spent Sept. 14 following up on their summer reading list.
Over the summer students were assigned three books by Gene Stratton-Porter, A Girl of the Limberlost, Freckles, and At the Foot of the Rainbow. On Sept. 14 they travelled to Stratton-Porter’s northern home on Sylvan Lake in Rome City and followed up with a pond study at Dallas Lake County Park with the assistance of Naturalist Scott Beam.
Stratton-Porter wrote many books, both fiction and non-fiction, and was an ardent admirer of the natural world. Her books are filled with detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna she discovered in the ponds, lakes, fields and forests of Indiana.
The 26 students from Dan Parks’ class eagerly hopped into the muck of the pond at Dallas Lake Park, armed with nets for scooping up pond creatures. As the nets were emptied, creatures were emptied into trays of water and then sorted by species. Beam pointed out that by studying the number and kinds of life forms over a period of time, they can determine the water quality of the pond.
Some of the interesting finds included a damselfly larva, a leech, water boatmen (small insects that “row” across the water), water scorpions (not an actual scorpion, more like an aquatic walking stick), and diving beetles. Due to this summer’s drought, the water level was low and Beam estimated that only about half the usual number of findings was seen.
As if to make up for the reduced species of pond life, a bald eagle soared overhead. Seeing a bald eagle in nature was a first for several of the students. LaGrange County had a nesting pair of eagles this summer for the first time in over 100 years.
One of the students found a monarch caterpillar feeding on some swamp milkweed. Beam also discussed “water obligate” plants (plants that are indicative of a wetland), the various habitats in the park, and the importance of “edges,” places where two habitats meet. Edges are the best places for observing wildlife because they serve as a crossroads.
The purpose of the field trip was to better understand Gene Stratton-Porter, to see things as she saw them as much as possible, and to come away with a better appreciation of the natural world.