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Clarks River NWR Hosts Children From 2 Elementary Schools
Southeast Region, May 10, 2005
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On May 3rd and 4th students from Wingo Elementary School located in Graves County and on May 9th and 10th students from Concord Elementary School located in McCracken county visited Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge to participate in outdoor activities aimed at increasing environmental awareness. The programs provided students with an opportunity to learn about the importance of wetland forest habitat to migratory birds just returning from a long winter in South America. Birds captured were identified, banded and then released by students participating in the songbird banding activity. Students also used dip nets to find out what creatures live in Clarks River, and how creatures present in these aquatic habitats can help determine the quality of the water. All activities were hands-on and emphasized conservation issues as well as human impact. ?Although Western Kentucky is a rural area, most kids do not experience the out-of-doors fully, as did past generations. This is partly due to today's pace of life and the competing activities associated with sports, TV, computers etc. It was great to see the kids see things they had not seen or thought about much in the outdoors, get muddy and wet, tromp through the woods and have a great time doing it. Hopefully, their awareness of the outdoors and what it offers to us all was peaked just a bit. They experienced first hand what is sometimes taken for granted or has been forgotten? said Refuge Manager Michael Johnson. Linette Hamilton, the participating teacher from Concord Elementary in MacCracken County said ? The kids love it. They have been excited about the field day every since we began doing the pre-field day activities in class. Touching and actually seeing things make it real, for many of the kids this is their first experience with rivers and wetland forests.?

The educational programming for curriculum development, teacher training, teaching kits, buses, and other associated expenses were funded through a Nature of Learning Grant applied for and awarded to The Regional Science Resource Center (RSRC) at Western Kentucky University by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The grant provided an opportunity for the RSRC to work in partnership with Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge to provide a unique, environmental education program to the students in Graves, Marshall and McCracken counties. These counties were chosen based on their location to the Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge. Teachers were recruited from all three counties with Nakia Brown from Graves county and Linette Hamilton from McCracken county participating in the program.

The RSRC at Western Kentucky University and Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge are the main partners involved with the Clarks River program. The RSRC caters to middle school students, providing them with distinctive science programs which they would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience. The RSRC has provided science programming to over 10,000 students since the 2001-2002 school year. This includes both on site science experiences and outreach in the schools.

Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1998 and is the only National Wildlife Refuge located solely within Kentucky. The refuge is one of 544 National Wildlife Refuges and was established to protect valuable bottomland hardwood forests along the Clarks River, as well as wetland habitat complexes formed by the river and creeks. This natural wetland ecosystem offers excellent habitat for deer, turkey and especially migratory birds. The refuge is open to the public all year and seeks to promote opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation and education.

Other partners in this endeavor include the Friends of Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge, Joe Lindsey of McCracken County and West Kentucky Management Inc. The Friends group is a newly formed association which aims to unite area volunteers in support of the refuge's wildlife conservation, recreation and education programs. Friends members Melanie Halliman, Happy Chambers and Doug Galyen contributed photography, bird banding expertise and teaching assistance to the school group during the scheduled activities. Joe Lindsey graciously welcomed students to his property, which is adjacent to the refuge, for river seining and observation of a managed wetland habitat. Students were able to view a variety of bird life while at Mr. Lindsey's wetland including egrets, herons, various species of shorebirds, blue-winged teal, Canada geese and a host of migrating songbirds. West Kentucky Management Inc. served as a local business sponsor as required to secure the grant used to make the event possible.

The Nature of Learning is a grant-funded program funded through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Keystone Center and the National Wildlife Refuge Association. This environmental education initiative seeks to use National Wildlife Refuges as outdoor classrooms to promote a greater understanding of local conservation issues as well as utilize field experiences and student-led stewardship projects to connect classroom lessons to real world issues. The program also encourages partnerships among local schools, community groups and natural resource professionals.

No contact information available. Please contact Larry Dean, 612-713-5313, larry_dean@fws.gov
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