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Students get ‘hands on’ environmental lessons at Old Hickory Lake

Nashville District Public Affairs
Published May 7, 2013
Park Ranger Amy Redmond shows a corn snake to a student from Hawkins Middle School during a presentation about snakes in Tennessee.  There were 11 learning stations that kids rotated between on Environmental Awareness Day at Old Hickory Lake.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District sponsors events like this to draw awareness to subjects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Park Ranger Amy Redmond shows a corn snake to a student from Hawkins Middle School during a presentation about snakes in Tennessee. There were 11 learning stations that kids rotated between on Environmental Awareness Day at Old Hickory Lake. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District sponsors events like this to draw awareness to subjects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Park Ranger Amy Redmond shows a corn snake to a group of 6th graders from Hawkins Middle School during a presentation about snakes in Tennessee.  There were 11 learning stations that kids rotated between on Environmental Awareness Day at Old Hickory Lake.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District sponsors events like this to draw awareness to subjects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Park Ranger Amy Redmond shows a corn snake to a group of 6th graders from Hawkins Middle School during a presentation about snakes in Tennessee. There were 11 learning stations that kids rotated between on Environmental Awareness Day at Old Hickory Lake. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District sponsors events like this to draw awareness to subjects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Carolyn Dillard, a conservationist with the National Resources Conservation Service, uses a model to explain how pesticides and fertilizers and other contaminants are washed into watersheds and the importance of protecting the environment to students from Hawkins Middle School.  This is one of 11 learning stations the kids rotated between on Environmental Awareness Day on the shoreline of Old Hickory Lake May 2, 2013.  The event took place at Rockland Recreation Area in Hendersonville, Tenn.

Carolyn Dillard, a conservationist with the National Resources Conservation Service, uses a model to explain how pesticides and fertilizers and other contaminants are washed into watersheds and the importance of protecting the environment to students from Hawkins Middle School. This is one of 11 learning stations the kids rotated between on Environmental Awareness Day on the shoreline of Old Hickory Lake May 2, 2013. The event took place at Rockland Recreation Area in Hendersonville, Tenn.

Talon Redding, a biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, displays a skunk pelt to Hawkins Middle School students on Environmental Awareness Day at Old Hickory Lake.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers organized the activities May 7, 2013 at Rockland Recreation Area.

Talon Redding, a biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, displays a skunk pelt to Hawkins Middle School students on Environmental Awareness Day at Old Hickory Lake. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers organized the activities May 7, 2013 at Rockland Recreation Area.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Park Ranger Robert Earhart organizes a game May 7, 2013 at Old Hickory Lake with students from Hawkins Middle School to help them understand the term "carrying capacity," which is the number of animals a given area of land or water can support over time.  The students spent the day at Rockland Recreation Area for Environmental Awareness Day.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Park Ranger Robert Earhart organizes a game May 7, 2013 at Old Hickory Lake with students from Hawkins Middle School to help them understand the term "carrying capacity," which is the number of animals a given area of land or water can support over time. The students spent the day at Rockland Recreation Area for Environmental Awareness Day.

Greg Thomas, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District facility manager at Old Hickory Lake, give a wildlife presentation to Hawkins Middle School students May 2, 2013 on Environmental Awareness Day at Rockland Recreation Area in Hendersonville, Tenn.

Greg Thomas, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District facility manager at Old Hickory Lake, give a wildlife presentation to Hawkins Middle School students May 2, 2013 on Environmental Awareness Day at Rockland Recreation Area in Hendersonville, Tenn.

Dwight Barnett, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, talks to 6th grade students from Hawkins Middle School about vegetation that is not indigenous to Tennessee during Environmental Awareness Day May 2, 2103 at Rockland Recreation Area on the shoreline of Old Hickory Lake.

Dwight Barnett, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, talks to 6th grade students from Hawkins Middle School about vegetation that is not indigenous to Tennessee during Environmental Awareness Day May 2, 2103 at Rockland Recreation Area on the shoreline of Old Hickory Lake.

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (May 7, 2013) – About 150 sixth-grade students from Hawkins Middle School received “hands-on” environmental lessons today on the shoreline of Old Hickory Lake.

The kids arrived at Rockland Recreation Area early in the morning, formed smaller groups, and rotated between 11 learning stations to interact with experts in various environmental career fields.

Representatives from the Nashville District, U.S. Forest Service, Cumberland River Compact, Tennessee State Parks, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Metro Parks, National Resources Conservation Service and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation participated.

Sixth grader Kiera Vallee, 12, said she really enjoyed being outdoors by the lake and getting her hands-on items on display at the learning stations and really like seeing the live corn snake a Corps ranger presented to the groups.

“I didn’t know they didn’t have a bladder,” Vallee said about snakes.  “It was cool. The more you pay attention the more you know.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District promotes events like this that encourages learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  The park rangers at Old Hickory Lake organized the day’s activities to promote STEM topics to the kids that participated.

The partnership between the community and schools is great way for the kids to apply what they are learning in the classroom, said Dr. Stan Cole, 6th grade science teacher at Hawkins Middle School

“One of the things the kids ask is ‘why do I have to learn about science?’ – that question comes often.  And when they can actually come out and have an experience like this and talk to a bunch of different people who work in different kinds of environmental businesses and companies… they get to see what the possibilities for them personally are,” Cole said. “They also get an appreciation for the outside that many of them don’t have because spend a lot of time playing with their Game Boys and watching television.  So this is just a great experience for them.”

Abby Warren, a 6th grade science and math teacher at Hawkins Middle School, said the Environmental Awareness Day activities provide the students learning experiences not possible in the classroom.  She said the various organizations and experts on hand provide insight into a number of different topics and the result is kids get to expand their knowledge.

“This is a great end-of-the-year activity for our students.  They are learning but they don’t really know they’re learning.  They’re having fun while they’re doing it,” Warren said.

Warren said Old Hickory Lake is a huge resource for learning and the school is glad to take advantage of opportunities where the kids can get into the outdoors and enjoy practical experiences.

“We’re five minutes down the road from here so it’s really nice to come out here and not be far away and it’s an easy trip for us to make,” Warren added.  “Environmental science is something that we teach in 6th grade, and so this is a perfect addition to what we’re learning this year and what the kids are tested on for TCAP (Tennessee Comprehensive Program).  It’s been cool to see them remember what we learned in the classroom and be able to apply it out here in the real world.”

The Old Hickory Lake park rangers and staff sponsored several learning stations that provided information about wildlife and the environment.

Park Ranger Robert Earhart led an activity at one learning station where he explained “carrying capacity,” which is the number of animals a given area of land or water can support over time.  He organized a game for the kids to help them understand the interaction between the animals and their need for space, shelter, food and water.

“When kids can come to the park and actually see the environment first hand, I think it makes all the difference in the world,” Earhart said.  “Just to be here, and be hands on, and see the trees, see the grass, and see the animals, it’s a big difference instead of just learning about it on a chalk board or watching it on TV.  Here they can feel the wetness on their feet, they can hear the birds chirp – it’s a whole different circumstance for the kids and it’s great to be in this environment.”

(For more new, updates and information follow the Nashville District on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and Old Hickory Lake at http://www.facebook.com/oldhickorylake. Follow the Nashville District on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)