By Patrick Troyer

Education specialist

Paulding SWCD

Paulding fourth grade students enjoyed a fun-filled day at the Black Swamp Nature Center this past Friday. They took part in a day of programs on wildlife, water quality, forestry, and a scavenger hunt through the Black Swamp Nature Center.

Presenters for the day included Deb Hubbard (Paulding SWCD), Patrick Troyer (Paulding SWCD), Allison Nofziger (Williams SWCD) and Bill Grimes (retiree).

Students arrived at the Black Swamp Nature Center in the morning eager to begin a day of outdoor learning.

Bill Grimes talked to students on forestry and Johnny Appleseed. Students learned about the basic parts of a tree and the necessities trees need to survive such as sunlight, nutrients and water.

They learned all about John Chapman aka Johnny Appleseed and his endeavor of establishing apple orchards all throughout the American Midwest.

Johnny traveled throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania strategically establishing his orchards and coming back to sell off the orchard and surrounding land.

The orchards established by Chapman did not yield edible fruit but were useful in the production of apple cider and served a legal purpose of establishing land claims along the frontier.

Bill Grimes did a great job bringing the story of Johnny Appleseed to life and even dressed the part allowing students to feel as if they were learning from Johnny himself.

Deb Hubbard took students on a scavenger hunt through the trails at the Black Swamp Nature Center. Students were given a sheet where they had several items to check off that they observed in the trails.

Among some of the items to be found were: bird’s nest, feathers, bluebird house, pond, buckeye tree, squirrel’s nest, two different tree barks, deer tracks, creek dam as well as identifying animal pelts, just to name a few.

Deb explained to students the difference between a simple and compound leaf, which were two other items on their list. In a simple leaf, the blade is a single leaf that is never divided into smaller leaflet units whereas in a compound leaf, there are several small leaflets attached to a single petiole (attached to the stem).

Another item on their scavenger hunt sheet was to stop and listen for 60 seconds and write down the sounds they could hear. There were many birds singing and frogs making noise as well as the water rushing over the dam on Flat Rock Creek.

Students were able to find most of the items on their lists and even discovered some new ones to be added. After the scavenger hunt, students and teachers took a short walk through the trails at the Black Swamp Nature Center.

Patrick Troyer talked to students about water quality and how we use macroinvertebrates to help us determine the health of our waterways. A macroinvertebrate is an organism that lacks a backbone but is large enough to see without the need for magnifying glasses or microscope.

Some examples of macroinvertebrates are dragonflies, pill bugs, mayflies, crayfish or sow bugs to name a few.

There are two ways that we classify macroinvertebrates with one method being based on how they get their food and another method being based on their tolerance to pollution.

Macroinvertebrates are grouped as follows based on their feeding habits: scrapers have razor-like mouthparts that scrape algae off rocks, collectors have net-like mouthparts which capture things such as algae or bacteria floating in the water, predators have bodies which are designed to capture and kill other macroinvertebrates, and shredders have mouthparts which allow them to chew or bore into their food such as loose vegetation that falls in the water.

Indicator species are organisms whose presence or absence reveal specifics about water quality. Macros are placed into three groups: group one, group two, and group three.

Group one macroinvertebrates are sensitive to pollution so sampling high numbers of this group suggests good water quality.

Group two macros indicate borderline water quality as members of this group are moderately sensitive to pollution.

Group three macroinvertebrates are tolerant to pollution so sampling high numbers of this group and low numbers of the other two, could be suggestive of polluted water.

After a brief discussion, we took a few samples of water from Flatrock Creek to see how clean our local water is and then students put their identification skills to the test to identify the macroinvertebrates living in our local waters.

Alison Nofziger led students in an activity called Wildlife CSI where students worked together to solve the mystery of who killed the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit. Nofziger gave them some basic facts to work from on some native Ohio wildlife who could be possible suspects such as the skunk, coyote, owl and the fox.

Students were put into groups where they took on the roles of animals mention above and humans, questioning each other on habits, behavior and diet while also using visual clues from the crime scene setup in front of them. Students loved this great group activity.

If your classroom, 4-H club, or nature group would like to have as much fun as Paulding fourth graders did, give the Paulding SWCD office a call at 419-399-4771 or email at to schedule an event like this or one of the presentations mentioned.

We are happy to have your group come to the Black Swamp Nature Center to enjoy some great outdoor learning.