More than a year into the program, “Creek Kids” is proving that hands-on learning about watersheds is fun and educational. This fall 1,174 students in grades four through eight from Bibb, Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, and Walker counties became Creek Kids. Students learned about watersheds and the aquatic environment through this partnership between the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) and Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park near McCalla, Ala. For the year, 23 schools and approximately 3,000 participants experienced the program. Fall classes ended in November, but will resume at the end of March in 2011.
The consensus among teachers who participated in Creek Kids is that the program is a success. Twelve of the science teachers evaluated this fall rated the program 3.92 on a 4.0 scale.
Susie Lamon, a sixth-grade science teacher from Parrish Elementary in Walker County, said her class will definitely be back. “I sincerely appreciate the effort WFF went to in order to ensure we had a positive learning experience. The program not only met our expectations, but exceeded it,” Lamon said.
Robert Ray, a fourth-grade teacher from Southview Elementary in Tuscaloosa, Ala., agrees. “The best way for children to learn about aquatic education is to get them wet in Alabama’s creeks, and the Creek Kid program does just that,” Ray said.
During the class, students and teachers wade into Tannehill’s Bubbling Spring and Mud Creek for a hands-on experience with native fish and invertebrates. Participants also experience an extensive overview of the watershed via a train ride, learn about the impact of a mill dam on fish passage and use an interactive educational model, or EnviroScape, that illustrates how pollution moves into the aquatic environment. A final portion of the field trip consists of a visit to the Iron and Steel Museum of Alabama where students learn about Alabama’s iron industry.
According to 2005 data from Child Trends Data Bank, the percentage of Alabama fourth graders scoring at or above science proficiency is 12 – 21 percent. At higher grade levels the scores are lower. Research shows that student success in science is crucial for the advancement of science, technology, and medicine. Through a greater understanding of science, students can learn how to better protect the environment. With that in mind, WFF designed Creek Kids to make understanding the environment fun.
The Creek Kids program costs $5 per student. Some schools may have their fees waved if they are public schools with 40 percent or more of their students eligible for free or reduced lunches. Assistance may include some transportation costs. Funding for Creek Kids comes from the sale of “Take A Kid Fishing” automobile license plates. To make Creek Kids reservations call Brenda Morrison at (205) 477-6301, or email her at Brenda.Morrison@dcnr.alabama.gov.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.