The flora and fauna of Yosemite National Park came alive for Oakhurst Elementary School students last week at the Third Annual OES Science Day sponsored by the Parent Teacher Club.
"Our Parent Teacher Club is very gracious and sponsor it every year," said OES Principal Kathleen Murphy.
Murphy said this year they wanted to weave in environmental earth science, hiking and wildlife safety because of the area we live in. On hand to teach students about those topics were four Yosemite park rangers and author Steven Riley.
Riley wrote and illustrated a book about "Little Ty Cooney," a raccoon who ran a race through Yosemite. Riley talked about his books to kindergarten through third grade, then taught them how to draw a Giant Sequoia while telling them fun facts about the huge trees. Children learned that the tallest Giant Sequoia on record is 311 feet and the oldest one is about 3,500 years old.
In the multi-purpose room, all grades learned about bear biology and hiking safety. Students sat through an initial introduction by ranger Sharon Miyako, then broke up into groups of 20-30 and rotated between four hands-on science stations.
"Yosemite's education staff is always thrilled to return as a participant in Oakhurst Elementary School's annual science day," Miyako said. "The event gives us the chance to meet students in their home community, where they are most comfortable."
Education ranger Chris Raines spoke about general wildlife, how to be safe around them, what to do when approached by an animal, as well as what attracts wildlife to homes and how to keep pets safe from wildlife predators.
Miyako talked to students about general hiking safety and the importance of knowing how to read maps, how to stay in one place if you get lost, and what to pack when hiking.
Aricia Martinez, Yosemite Leadership Program student and summer wilderness ranger, spoke about bears and food storage and what to do when encountering a bear.
Ranger Ryan Leahy spoke about bear biology while showing students photos of bears and a bear skull. He also spoke about how the park manages bears and what tools it uses to do so.
At the bear education table, Miyaku said one first grader told them that they properly put their food away when camping so the bears wouldn't get into it. Miyaku said the student continued on to say that they didn't want the bears to get hurt, because they love nature and all animals.
"This means our students are not only connecting with us while we're at the school, but also making connections between what we're sharing with them and their experiences outside of school with their families," Miyako said. "There isn't anything better than that."