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Elementary school’s a dirty job

On May 6, Wolfle Elementary’s nature rangers tackled a dirty topic: planting trees. - CourtesyPhoto
On May 6, Wolfle Elementary’s nature rangers tackled a dirty topic: planting trees.
— image credit: CourtesyPhoto

t Wolfle Nature Rangers get dirty.

KINGSTON —?Nothing beats a mountain-sized pile of dirt for the Wolfle Elementary nature rangers.

The rangers are a group of 22 first- through fourth-grade students who meet one day a week after school to learn about the great outdoors.

Maria Steinbeisser, a first-grade teacher at Wolfle, is the club leader. She volunteer for the post because she said it’s important for kids to get outside and away from the TV.

“It’s just a chance for the kids to be outdoors and learn about nature,” Steinbeisser said. “They always have something silly to say. It’s just fun to see their perceptions.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the Rangers did exactly that — they got outside and shared some unique observations.

After the school bells rang, the rangers filed behind Wolfle, surrounding a large black tarp.

On the count of three, they lifted the tarp to reveal a child-luring pile of soil.

“Eeww, it smells bad,” one ranger shrieked.

Another chimed in with what she thought was the origin of the odor — horse poop.

Actually it was a giant pile of soil.

The students, who each donned a pair of gloves and grabbed a hand shovel, were gearing up to plant a few trees and other greenery in Wolfle’s garden. But first, the mound needed to be leveled out.

Joy-filled laughter echoed around the school grounds as the rangers climbed on, played in and rolled down the soil, while looking for dirt-dwelling critters.

The students were on the hunt for beetles, worms and potato bugs. Although worms and potato bugs were nowhere to be found, one ranger did uncover a dirt rock.

Regardless, a down-and-dirty good time was had by all.

“I like digging in the dirt because you never know what you might find in it,” said second-grade ranger Carson White. “It’s very messy but very enjoyable when you’re looking for something.”

The rangers’ main objective was to spread the dirt, which was flush-up against a flower bed brimming with vibrant tulips and daffodils, so the trees and plants could be placed.

Pots of columbines, yarrow, western hemlock, cinquefoil, and bleeding hearts were brought out and transplanted into the now-flattened pile.

While Tuesday’s ranger session was spent playing in the Wolfle garden, Mother Earth’s little stewards spend most of their time discovering the other wonders of nature.

“I like being a ranger because sometimes we pick up trash so we can help Mother Earth,” Carson said. “I like that we’re helping her and by helping her then we can help ourselves, like when we plant trees, that gives us oxygen to breathe.”

The rangers also walk the nature trail by the school and identify plants and play “walk the plank” on the fallen logs to practice coordination. They find bugs, worms a few frogs and some scat, act like animals, draw nature sketches, make pinecone bird feeders, hug and measure trees and share their favorite nature memories.

“Whatever they’re interested in guides what we do,” Steinbeisser said. “Hopefully they will become stewards of the earth by planting a seed and letting it grow, that’s what I hope will happen.”

One seed Steinbeisser has already planted and is growing, with a little help from the nature rangers, is Wolfle’s garden. This year eight raised beds, a bird sanctuary, a ladybug and butterfly bed and a nature play area with “sand pools” have been developed.

Garden design help from Kingston’s Larson and Casteel Landscape Architects and grants from the Poulsbo, Kingston and Flotsam and Jetsam garden clubs, Kitsap Public Utility District and Wal-Mart allowed Wolfle’s garden to bloom this year.

The rewards of working with the rangers in the garden have been huge.

Winter-quarter nature ranger Jim Horishige got his father, Mike Horishige, involved. Mike Horishige told Steinbeisser they have a garden at home but Jim doesn’t spend time in it. If Steinbeisser could get Jim in the garden at Wolfle then Mike Horishige would buy some flowers for the garden.

The flowers have yet to arrive, but Steinbeisser received an even better gift.

The father and son duo made three bird house, which they installed on Wednesday.

“The biggest payoff was a father and son doing something together for the school garden,” Steinbeisser said. “That really touched my heart. Family time is so important.”

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