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tree tops in Miller Woods

Learning at Miller Woods

Posted on 10.07.22 by Starla Pointer, News-Register Staff Writer in College of Arts & Science

By Starla Pointer, News-Register Staff Writer

On a visit to Miller Woods nature park, second-graders learned about insects that live in a pond and a meadow, how to predict weather and the good things bees do.

“Have you ever seen a bee pollinate a flower?” instructor Klaus Zimmerling asked children after they’d talked about how bees carry pollen from one blossom to another on their sticky feet.

“Lots of times,” Alberto Cervantes piped up, and many of his classmates nodded sagely.

One thing they’d never done, though, was make bees. But at Miller Woods, they did, bending pipe cleaners into the shape of the insects.

The field trip is one of several science experiences for elementary students in the McMinnville School District. Each grade level studies a different subject — McMinnville’s water supply in third grade, friction in fifth grade and various aspects of nature in other grades.

Children such as Alberto, James Leon and Keaton Boice brushed the little bees’ legs in pollen – well, orange Cheeto dust – and transferred it to silk flowers. If the pollen and the flowers were real, Zimmerling told them, the flowers might become apples or grapefruit or tomatoes.

Yum, the second-graders said, understanding the benefits of bees.

The second-grade field trip also included stations in the meadows at Miller Woods, at a weather station and at the park’s pond.

At the latter, youngsters dipped nets into the water, then examined the tiny animals and bits of plants that came up.

They didn’t find some of the things they earlier had guessed were in the pond, like snakes and octopuses, but they were thrilled to see a lot of movement.

“I got a big one!” cried Einar Guadalupe Ruiz Santiago, pointing out the long dark shape to his partner, Cesar Soriano.

"What does it look like?” asks Raul Medrano, the volunteer instructor at the pond.

They all compared Einar’s bug to a chart of insect life in the pond.

Maddy Roskop, one of several Linfield University education majors volunteering for the science experience, helped them identify it as a giant stonefly.

Rusty Rae/News-RegisterMac High graduate Jackie Bravo, one of several Linfield education majors helping with the Miller Woods field trip, dips water out of the pond for Colton Johnson, right, and Eddie Purchase to examine.
Rusty Rae/News-Register: Mac High graduate Jackie Bravo, one of several Linfield education majors helping with the Miller Woods field trip, dips water out of the pond for Colton Johnson, right, and Eddie Purchase to examine.

Or maybe, they wondered, was it a beetle larva?

Across the dock, Zoey Oglesbie and Vanessa Mendoza Ortega bent over a small bucket to look closely at the insects they’d found. And another pair of students, Eddie James Purchase and Colton Johnson, put their faces close to the sample in order to see every little thing.

Linfield student Jackie Bravo helped Eddie and Colton count the bugs. She was one of the McMinnville High School graduates who were making return trips to Miller Woods.

Bravo, Monse Martinez-Ponce and Katie Martinez are doing their student teaching in McMinnville schools, and took a day off to help with the field trip. They also had volunteered with the second-grade trip to Miller Woods when they were students in Mac High’s education pathway.

But Martinez-Ponce and Bravo also were thinking of an earlier field trip when they were second-graders visiting the nature park.

“I remember catching dragonflies,” Martinez-Ponce said.

And Bravo recalled that she “enjoyed being outside and exploring.”

For Martinez, who also helped with the third-grade field trip when she was in the education pathway at Mac High, the experiences confirmed her interest in becoming a teacher. Now all three Linfield students are almost finished with their education degrees.

Someday soon, they said, they may return to Miller Woods once again — this time with their own students who are learning about bees, ponds and other aspects of nature.

Originally published Oct. 7, 2022 by the News-Register. Read more about Linfield in the News-Register archive.

Starla Pointer, who believes everyone has an interesting story to tell, has been writing the weekly “Stopping By” column since 1996. She’s always looking for suggestions. Contact her at 503-687-1263 or

  • Rusty Rae/News-Register: Edward James Purchase takes a close look at the pond water, hoping to spot some bugs or maybe an octopus.

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  • Rusty Rae/News-Register: Adult volunteer Raul Medrano shows Wascher Elementary School second-graders a chart of the insects and other creatures they might see in water from the pond at Miller Woods.

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  • Rusty Rae/News-Register: Alberto Cervantes bends pipe cleaners to create a bee as he and his classmates learn about the important work of pollinators.

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