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A walk in the woods

A vintage photo of one of the stations at the Cloquet Forestry Education classes.

The public is invited to celebrate the Cloquet Forestry Center's 50th Carlton County Conservation Education Days on Saturday, Oct. 6.

Enjoy s'mores at the bonfire while Smokey Bear makes his appearance from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Get an early start with the 5K fun run/walk or come a little later for the wagon tour, fire history tour and more.

The forestry has been educating Cloquet fifth-graders since 1968. Its goal is to introduce students to nature ecosystems, like the macro-invertebrates, where students get to examine bugs.

Students also learn to identify a variety of area trees by their leaves, needles and cones.

One of the students' favorite 20-minute stations — and one that will be available for families Saturday — is the "Lost in the Woods" station.

Research plot coordinator and station educator Rachel Olesiak explains the station.

"We are in the middle of the woods," she said. "I ask the kids how many have been lost in the woods. About half of them raise their hands. Then I ask them what they should do if they are lost. Some students say they will use the GPS on their cellphone or call for help on their cell."

She explains to the students there are many areas in the woods that do not have cellphone reception. This year, she had two students who said they were lost, but they had a dog who helped lead them back home.

Then they discuss what to do if the students need to spend the night in the woods.

Olesiak teaches the kids how to use sticks for poles and tree boughs, shoelaces and a plastic raincoat to make a temporary shelter.

There are now 11 stations when the fifth-graders visit the forestry two days in the fourth week of September.

The students enjoy a variety of teachers as well, including Carlton County, the forestry center, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Sappi, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the University of Minnesota Duluth.

According to Olesiak, the event has been ongoing for enough years that sometimes parents and even grandparents who have been through the program accompany their children or grandchildren.

"It's a humbling feeling to think we have created these types of memories for thousands of others over the years and our goal is to create them for many more students to come," Olesiak said.

The forestry taught 525 students during Conservation Education Days this year.

The Cloquet Forestry Center is located at 175 University Rd. For more information about the 50th Carlton County Conservation Education Days, visit cfc.cfans.umn.edu.

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'>If you go

What: 50th Carlton County Conservation Education Days

When: Saturday, Oct. 6

Where: Cloquet Forestry Center, 175 University Rd.

Events:

• 5K fun run/walk — 5K registration, 7:15 a.m.; pre-run information, 7:45 a.m.; 5K run/walk start, 8 a.m.

• Conservation booths and tree planting begin — 9 a.m.

• Forest wagon and fire history walking tours — 9:30-10:45 a.m.., 1:15- 2:30 p.m.

• Conservation educational sessions — 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• Food will be available for purchase.

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