Area youths participating in Asylum Lake service project

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Photo of WMU's Asylum Lake Preserve.

WMU's Asylum Lake Preserve is site of educational service project.

KALAMAZOO--More than 150 third graders from four different Kalamazoo County schools will get an education in environmental stewardship as well as an appreciation for nature when they take part in an educational service project next month at Kalamazoo's Asylum Lake Preserve.

The project, which also contributes to improving the preserve's ecological health, is set for 9:30 a.m. to noon Tuesday, May 1, or in case of rain, Wednesday, May 2.

It will bring together third graders from the Mattawan (Mich.) Early Elementary School, Montessori School in Kalamazoo, and El Sol Elementary School and Woodward Magnet School for Technology in the Kalamazoo Public Schools system.

With the help of some 20 volunteers, the children will participate in activities at stations throughout the 274-acre Asylum Lake Preserve, where they will build leadership skills, practice journaling, take samples from Asylum Lake and study water ecology, and learn about invasive species while pulling out garlic mustard plants.

All of the nature guides who will be leading groups of children from station to station are WMU students. To make the day more fun, the University's mascot, Buster Bronco will be on hand to greet the participating students.

The event is being organized by the University's landscape services department and president's office. It was created by an employee from each of those units to complement the Outside in Our Schoolyard program, which was developed by the Kalamazoo Nature Center and local public schools in partnership with the University.

That program, now in its third year, evolved from the Kalamazoo No Child Left Inside Initiative. Its primary goal is to get students outside to explore, observe, appreciate and connect with the natural environment and each other.

Whenever possible, WMU includes garlic mustard pulls in its public outreach events to help control what has become one of the preserve's most persistent invasive plants. A garlic mustard decomposition area is dug at the preserve each year so the collected plants can be buried on site as a more environmentally friendly alternative to sending the weeds to a landfill.

For more information about the upcoming service-learning day at Asylum Lake Preserve, contact Cari DeLong at cari.delong@wmich.edu or (269) 387-8568. Visit wmich.edu/asylumlake for more information about the preserve and visit naturecenter.org for details about the No Child Left Inside initiative.