Students learn about environment at Placer Nature Bowl competition

Young scientists brave the rain for semi-finals
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal Staff Writer
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Raincoats were the lab coats of choice for a group of soggy scientists Tuesday afternoon. Students from throughout Placer and Nevada counties converged upon the Placer Nature Center to compete in the Nature Bowl semi-finals. "It's wet and wild," Placer Nature Center education director Linda Desai said. The third- through sixth-graders involved in Tuesday's semi-finals came from Auburn, Lincoln, Grass Valley, Granite Bay and Penn Valley. Student teams competed in a number of tasks like nature relays, team questions and enviro-mercials. Tuesday's competition at the Placer Nature Center was just one of many held throughout the Sacramento Valley region. In its 14th year at the Placer Nature Center and 21st year altogether, the annual event teaches students ecology, biology, sustainability and human interdependence with nature. "The main reason is to get them aware of their local environment," Desai said. "It makes them more aware of the plants and animals that are living in their local streams. It makes them more aware of their environment." A soggy scavenger hunt was one of the outdoor highlights Tuesday afternoon, when fifth- and sixth-graders searched for examples of a renewable resource, a seed that spreads in the wind and something with four or more colors, among other items. "Considering it's a rainy day, they're doing really good," said nature center docent Roger Groghan. Groghan kept track of items found by Grass Valley Charter students Sarah Lehmberg, Gabrielle Roberts and Katherine Richards, who reported to Groghan after the trio found something that was man-made. "People made the road, which means it was made by people," said Katherine, a sixth-grader. "There probably used to be grass and stuff." As the girls pored over the nature center grounds, Grass Valley Charter teacher Alex Ezzell documented the competition with a waterproof cover on his camera. "I think it's incredibly valuable to learn in a hands-on environment and to learn in the rain," he said. "I think it challenges their knowledge a lot more and it gets them excited about science, learning in this format." The three girls agreed that the Nature Bowl outdoor competition was fun, albeit wet. Sarah Lehmberg, a sixth-grader, said her favorite part about Tuesday's activities was "getting prepared for this and having fun doing this and having an opportunity to be with friends and learn about nature." Gabrielle Roberts, a fifth-grader, agreed. "I like learning about different things and what problems are and how to fix them," she said. Another outdoor activity was the nature relay, which involved all students. The competition was also 10-year-old Bridget Grant's favorite. When it was the Penn Valley fifth-grader's turn, prompted to find an item that might kill fish eggs, Bridget walked to a saucer full of assorted items and picked up an empty oil container. The selection was correct. "It's a little more active than the others," she said, returning to a huddle with her Pleasant Valley Elementary classmates. Stormy weather aside, Tuesday's competition was an enjoyable one. "It's wet, but it's really fun," Bridget said. The Journal's Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at