Ashtabula first-grade students study nature on their school campus

Sep. 26—ASHTABULA — First-grade students on the Lakeside Ashtabula Elementary Campus are taking advantage of beautiful fall weather with monthly nature walks.

Lakeside parent, Suzanne Westlake, who works as a technician at the Ashtabula County Soil and Water Conservation District office in Jefferson, led the students on a walk on Friday.

She said she plans to continue the walks as long as Mother Nature permits.

During the walks, children explore the nature around them and will compare/contrast how it changes month to month.

At the conclusion of the year, they will travel to the Brick Pond, a pond behind the elementary campus, to further their exploration.

The study area includes about 102 acres and consists of two parcels owned by the Ashtabula Area City Schools Board of Education.

Last year, the board approved a $24,185 contract with Environmental Design Group of Akron to develop an outdoor master plan for the brick pond property.

The outdoor master plan may include a system of trails, sidewalks, green space, terraces, benches, picnic tables, art, water management features and much more, according to the proposal.

The objective is to create a sense of discovery, enjoyment and community, Board President William Niemi has said.

In December 2021, the board approved a $41,250 contract with Environmental Design Group for Phase 1, wetland delineation and pond assessment for the brick pond property.

Two months earlier, local businessmen Ron Kister and John Brace donated the 100-plus-acre property to the school district.

Last year, when Westlake helped students explore the brick pond, they found animal tracks and a tree that a beaver had chewed, she said.