The 6th Grade Horicon Marsh field trip is the culmination of a unit on ecology. Prior to the trip, students study the biosphere, and the different types of ecosystems. They look at the biotic and abiotic components, food chains, food webs, and energy pyramids in different ecosystems. Students also learn about the water cycle, oxygen and carbon cycles, and the nitrogen cycle.
Horicon Marsh is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States. While there, students immerse themselves in the ecology of three different environments - wetland, prairie, and woodland. The morning activities include a pontoon boat ride on the marsh and water sampling at the DNR field station. While on the boat, students learn how the marsh water level is adjusted and why. They learn how the wetlands act as natural filters for pollutants that may wash into this fragile ecosystem. Additionally, students see first hand how the marsh acts as a nursery for the hundred of species of birds that nest in the marsh. Water sampling allows many students to see freshwater macroinvertebrates and vertebrates for the first time. They use nets to catch lake fly and caddisfly larvae, bullfrog tadpoles, small fish, etc.
An afternoon walk through the federal portion of the marsh allows students to explore and experience the marsh from the shore, a prairie habitat and woodland habitat. Students sketch all three habitats in detail, while they immerse themselves in the sounds and sights of these ecosystems. In addition to the great variety of birds, students are exposed to many species of mammals, fish, frogs, turtles, snakes, insects and plants.