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Area students connect with lakes at state park

A "Login to Lakes" field trip at Lake Carlos State Park educated students about the wonders of nature.1 / 3
A pontoon ride gave students the chance to try their hand at casting a line into Lake Carlos.2 / 3
A group of 6th grade students had a chance to learn what a fish feels like during a field trip to Lake Carlos State Park.3 / 3

More than 120 6th graders and teachers from Voyager Elementary and Brandon Elementary School were encouraged to "Login to Lakes" at Lake Carlos State Park recently.

The program calls attention to children's ever increasing reliance on technology in their spare time, instead of outdoor recreation.

The students:

• Took a pontoon tour of Lake Carlos with aquatic biologists.

• Collected water samples and examined the invasive species, zebra mussels.

• Tried their hand at casting a line into the lake at a fishing station. Many caught sunfish and perch.

• Worked with fisheries staff members to identify and hold game and non-game species of fish.

• Used global positioning system (GPS) units during a geocaching course.

The field trip was a memorable one, according to 6th grade teacher Travis Hochhalter.

"Wow! What a great job on the field trip, Login to Lakes," he said in a letter to park leaders. "Awesome leaders/helpers, fantastic weather, very organized, and enjoyed by all students, chaperones and teachers."

Back in their classrooms, the students reviewed what they learned and discussed what they liked the most about the field trip.

During the pontoon ride, students said they liked using a Secchi disk to find the clarity of the water, along with looking at the aquatic vegetation, seeing "all the cool bugs" and learning about zebra mussels.

In the safety and fishing group, the students liked the actual fishing part of it and learning how to bait a hook. They also enjoyed learning the safety of casting and the beauty of the lake.

In the fish identification group, the kids loved touching and holding the non-game fish. Also, they enjoyed learning about different species of fish, how to hold fish and tasting fish. "Very yummy," said one student.

The most favorite activity, by a show of hands, was the geocaching class. The students got a kick out of learning how to use the GPS and competing against other teams in finding containers.

They also loved the owl call given by Ryan Sansness, assistant park manager.

One student added it was nice to see the campsites out at Lake Carlos State Park.

"Overall, these kids learned many things to help them gain more knowledge of our natural resources and how important it is to keep our lakes clean," said Hochhalter. "I think all 6th graders should have this opportunity."

Students were given free gift bags that included a starter fishing tackle kit, a poster of the fish of Minnesota, and other aquatic themed items.