Wister 8th grade students visit the Janet Huckabee River Valley Nature Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Wister 8th grade GEAR UP students recently visited the Janet Huckabee River Valley Nature Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center sits on 170 acres of land in Fort Smith that were previously part of Fort Chaffee. 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 GEAR UP students learned about archery. Several Wister students currently participate in Archery Club at school. GEAR UP students learned about techniques and safety of the use of bows. They used the tools they learned and shot at targets.

Next, students visited Wells Lake where they learned about boating. They gained knowledge of canoeing strokes and safety procedures. Along with learning about boating safety and different fish species, and they learned ways to protect these species in lakes and ponds. Students practiced skills learned on Wells Lake.

Finally, they moved onto 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.

Students gained knowledge about wildlife conservation, the practice of 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.

“Educational tours are an important part of Eastern’s GEAR UP program,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Tara Martin.

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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