Wetland Classroom Project Becomes Reality

A cooperative effort between ConAgra, Arkansas Tech University, Russellville High School and Boy Scouts of America Troop 214 has created a new educational tool for the Arkansas River Valley.

Representatives from all four entities gathered at Russellville High School in November to support the construction of a six-foot wide bridge that will allow students to study plants, birds, invertebrates and insects as part of a new wetland classroom.

The bridge project was made possible through a $5,000 grant from the ConAgra Sustainable Development Award, which was presented to Dr. Jason Patton, associate professor of geology and director of the Arkansas Center for Energy, Natural Resources, and Environmental Studies at Arkansas Tech.

The funding was made possible by the ConAgra Green Team at the company’s Russellville location. ConAgra Green Teams work at facilities across the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve sustainability.

Patton views the bridge constructed at RHS as a symbol of a larger mission.

“Faculty members at Tech and RHS science teachers will be building new bridges between college and high school students by requiring some science education majors to teach wetland-related lessons to high school students enrolled in environmental science at RHS,” said Patton. “Both sets of students will deepen their understanding of wetland ecosystems through this experiential learning process.”

Patton and several of his faculty colleagues at Arkansas Tech — including Dr. Charlie Gagen, professor of fisheries science and head of the Arkansas Tech Department of Biological Sciences; Dr. Justin Killingsworth, assistant professor of agricultural education; and Dr. Rosemary Burk, assistant professor of biology — are partnering with Chuck Campbell, science teacher at RHS, to implement the educational program.

The wetland classroom bridge was designed by Jake Vickers, a student at RHS and Eagle Scout candidate. With assistance from Boy Scout Troop 214, he constructed the bridge as part of his Eagle Scout requirements.

Visit www.atu.edu/nhs to learn more about the study of sciences at Arkansas Tech.

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