DOINews: USFWS-Koyukuk/Nowitna NWR: Galena Students Get Into the Woods

Last edited 09/05/2019

Students from Galena's elementary school spend some time observing nature in silence on a day in mid-January. Photo by K.L. Bodony, USFWS.
Galena's fifth- and sixth-graders celebrate their outdoor classroom. Photo by K.L. Bodony, USFWS.

“Come on you kids! Get out of the woods!” the teacher hollered to a handful of students who were reluctant to leave the forest and come onto the playground for recess. Smiling, I turned to another teacher and said, “That sure is different meaning of ‘Last Child in the Woods' isn't it?” We were just finishing a day in which all of Galena's elementary students had spent an hour exploring the forests and frozen lakes near the school. Their intense exploration and celebration of the natural world had been quite the antithesis of the Nature Deficit Disorder described in Richard Louv's book "Last Child in the Woods."

The two-day school program, led by biologist/educator Karin Bodony from Koyukuk/Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge, focused on observing changes in the natural environment and seeing art in nature. On the first day, the 25 students explored the outdoors, looking for color and patterns in the bleak mid-January landscape. They were returning to a site they had hiked to in the fall with visiting artist/naturalist Clare Walker Leslie. She had encouraged them to draw their observations and return to the same area throughout the year to record seasonal changes. On the second day of the program, students drew pictures of what they had seen, and displayed their artwork on a bulletin board in the school hallway.

Of all the magical moments that occurred during the two days, perhaps the most enchanting was the 15 minutes each student spent in total silence in the solitude of a frozen lake. That kind of connection with nature is something we don't often make time for, but what we experience in such moments is often profound. Thankfully the National Wildlife Refuge System preserves places for these kinds of nature encounters to happen in every state and season.

By: Karin Lehmkuhl Bodony, biologist/educator, Koyukuk/Nowitna NWR, USFWS

April 15, 2014

Related Links:

USFWS-Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge

USFWS-Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge

This story appears as an April 8 USFWS Field Notes entry here.

Was this page helpful?

Please provide a comment