Area youths participating in Asylum Lake Adventure Day

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Photo of children pulling up invasive plants.

Regena Nelson helps third graders pull garlic mustard, an invasive plant.

KALAMAZOO—Some 150 third graders from four Kalamazoo County schools will get an education in environmental stewardship next month as well as gain an appreciation for nature when they take part in Western Michigan University's Asylum Lake Adventure Day.

The event is set for 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, or in case of rain, Wednesday, May 8. It will bring together students 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.

Adventure day annually opens up WMU's 274-acre Asylum Lake Preserve to area school children and is held in cooperation with the Kalamazoo Nature Center. In addition to enlightening the youngsters about the wonders of the natural world, the project contributes to improving the preserve's ecological health. As a special treat, Buster Bronco, WMU's mascot, will spend time outdoors with the kids.

Photo of students looking out over Asylum Lake.

Dan Keto, Kalamazoo Nature Center, talks to students about pond ecology.

About 20 WMU students and community volunteers will assist during the event. Some serve as naturalists, offering hands-on environmental lessons at educational stations set up throughout the Asylum Lake Preserve. Others act as nature guides, leading the participating children, teachers and parents between stations along the preserve's network of trails.

One stop is on the shore of Asylum Lake, where the children will take water samples and study pond ecology. Another brings participants into the woods, where they will learn about invasive species as well as practice stewardship by pulling out garlic mustard plants.

Additional stations focus on general skill building, such as the stops where the children improve their writing through journaling and exercise leadership through activities that bring students from different schools together.

Visit wmich.edu/asylumlake for more information about the preserve and naturecenter.org for details about the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Asylum Lake Adventure Day

The day is a service-learning component of the Outside in Our Schoolyard program. As such, it recognizes that children who have positive experiences outside are more likely to become conservation stewards and aims to get area youngsters outdoors to explore, observe, appreciate and connect with the natural environment and each other. The event is organized by staff members in WMU's landscape services department with assistance from the University's Office of the President.

Outside in Our Schoolyard started as a pilot project in 2010 for 68 students from three schools. About 150 students from four schools have been involved with the program in its three subsequent years. The program grew out of the Kalamazoo No Child Left Inside Initiative and is a partnership among the Kalamazoo Nature Center, WMU, and the participating schools and school districts.

About the Asylum Lake Preserve

The 274-acre Asylum Lake Preserve is owned by WMU and managed by the University in conjunction with the communitywide Asylum Lake Policy and Management Council. Located on the northeast corner of Parkview Avenue and Drake Road, it is part of the Arcadia Creek-Portage Creek Watershed and the broader Kalamazoo River Watershed.

The preserve encompasses Asylum Lake and Little Asylum Lake and is open to the public as a passive-use recreation area under an agreement between the University and city of Kalamazoo. In addition to supporting research and education at all school levels, the property is used by many area residents as place for bird watching, running, walking, cross country skiing, swimming and fishing.

For more information about Asylum Lake Adventure Day, contact Steve Keto, WMU natural areas and preserves manager, at steve.keto@wmich.edu or (269) 760-9023.