Elk visit Bennetts Valley Elementary, create opportunity for learning
When you live in Elk Country, it’s not uncommon to spot elk. Sometimes they’re perched in a yard near the woods; other times they’re lying nonchalantly next to the road.
The youngsters who grow up in this part of the Pennsylvania Wilds are used to these enormous cervidae. But, who would have thought the elk visit them while in school?
Thursday, November 29 was a day like most others for the students at Bennetts Valley Elementary School… Even after the elk showed up!
Located in Weedville, Elk County, elk can be spotted on the school grounds a couple times each year, explained Principal Karen Lucanik.
The third and fourth graders who were participating in their math and reading lessons during the herd’s recent visit were able to take a moment to appreciate the elk.
“Seeing elk is normal around our area, but sometimes the elk get so close to our classroom that their antlers almost touch the glass,” said one youngster. “It happens often but we still get surprised.”
Another classmate offered, “It takes your breath away when you see 10 bull elk traveling together.”
The staff at Bennetts Valley views these impromptu visits as an opportunity to bring real life into the classroom.
“It’s a great experience for the kids; they always get excited when the elk show up,” said Principal Lucanik. “Almost always, teachers will pause what they are doing and have students gather around the window and watch them graze for a couple of minutes until they pass.”
Mr. Kyle Anstrom, fourth grade teacher, agreed.
“We frequently talk about the elk,” said Anstrom, who added that there are times when classes actually focus on the local herd. “We also have students take a trip to the Elk County Visitors Center for field trips.”
Anstrom noted that the school has taken advantage of virtual field trips offered by the Elk Country Visitors Center (ECVC) as well. This option allows students to learn more about elk from the knowledgeable ECVC staff through Skype.
“The Visitor Center will mail you an ‘elk trunk’ free of charge that contains antlers, skulls, shoulder bones, molds of footprints, jawbones, and teeth. For each elk item, they also include a whitetail deer [item] to make comparisons,” he explained. “As the Skype lesson progresses, the instructor has students pull items out of the trunk so they can see and touch them as they learn.”
Although it likely won’t be long until the next elk visit at Bennetts Valley Elementary, students and staff will be just as eager to appreciate their four-legged visitors and all the lessons they bring.
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