Bellevue fifth-graders spent most of last week learning in the outdoors as part of School of the Wild, a University of Iowa program being offered this month with the help of staff from Jackson County Conservation and area schools.

The youngsters participated in survival skills and walked the trails at Bellevue State Park, while others traveled to Felderman Park to study Mill Creek. Topics included water, woodlands and earth studies. On Friday, students traveled down to the Green Island Wildlife Refuge to take part in paddling, water quality studies, birding and biology.

“We are excited to help bring School of the Wild to Jackson County,” said Jessica Wagner

Environmental Education Coordinator for Jackson County Conservation. “What a great experience for the students to spend an entire week learning and exploring outdoors.”

Fifth-graders from the Easton Valley and Andrew school districts participated in the program last week as well, and students from the Maquoketa Community School District will participate this week.

Through the program, students get to know the parks in their community and connect with the environment.

Their days included activities such as canoeing, nature walks, learning to build fires and shelters and testing water quality.

While many of the activities were based on science, Bellevue students also practiced other skills through journaling and learning about the history of Bellevue State Park.

“We want them to see the parks in the community,” Wagner said. “We really hope that they come back and share this with their families.”

The University of Iowa created School of the Wild in 2000 as officials started to realize the benefits of engaging students outdoors for an entire week.

The course was the first accredited environmental school in Iowa. Originally planned for the fall of 2020, the program was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but returned this spring.