Hart-Ransom students take a step away from texts for a science trek

About 90 fourth-graders gathered by the Tuolumne River on Tuesday to learn about the creatures that live there and the people who passed that way long ago.

Students from Hart-Ransom School in west Modesto took part in Trekking the Tuolumne, which teaches natural history, water safety and other topics.

Students visited the part of Tuolumne River Regional Park southwest of Modesto Airport.

They identified plants and animals. They learned about the Mewuk people who once lived along the river. They heard that it irrigates much of the cropland in the Modesto area. And they learned it's not a good idea to wade in without an adult.

The Tuolumne River Trust and Great Valley Museum created the program in 2006. It has reached more than 4,000 fourth-graders since then.

The Modesto Irrigation District, which taps the river, stepped in after the program lost its state funding last year.

It is providing $50,000 over two years and helping with the river safety part of the program, modeled on its canal safety lessons.

"We were tickled when the Tuolumne River Trust approached us about this because it's a natural fit," MID spokeswoman Kate Hora said.