Wister 7th grade students tour the Janet Huckabee River Valley Nature Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Wister seventh grade GEAR UP students recently visited the Janet Huckabee River Valley Nature Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature which was previously part of Fort Chaffee, sits on 170 acres of land in Fort Smith. Exhibits play a large part in the nature center. Students discovered representations of the Ouachita and Ozark mountains, a life-sized oak tree exhibit crawling with game and nongame animal displays and a 1,200-gallon aquarium with native Arkansas fish. GEAR UP students participated in three educational programs—archery, laser shot, and boating.

Wister’s seventh grade students are learning about conservation of wildlife in science class. During the tour, they learned about protecting wild plant and animal species and their habitats. Wildlife plays an important role in balancing the ecosystem and provides stability to different natural processes of nature. The goal of wildlife conservation is to ensure that nature will be around for future generations to enjoy and also to recognize the importance of wildlife and wilderness for humans and other species alike.

The GEAR UP students learned about archery, a traditional game sport in which several of the students currently participate at school. GEAR UP students learned techniques and safety of the use of bows. They shot at targets.

From archery they moved to laser shot where they learned gun safety and aiming techniques through a computer-generated laser gun activity. They also learned about conservation of animals and how technique and safety are critical.

Finally, GEAR UP students learned about boating. They gained knowledge of canoeing strokes and safety procedures. Students practiced their skills on Wells Lake.

“Educational tours are an important part of Eastern’s GEAR UP program,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Tara Martin. “This tour was especially relevant as it brought wildlife conservation to life for these students. They have been studying it at school and now they have seen the ‘real life’ application.”

The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College GEAR UP. Participating schools take two field trips each academic year—one to tour a college or university and one that is cultural/educational in nature. Eastern recently received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant and will serve over 3,000 students in 39 area schools for seven years.

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