By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Fifth graders from Shannon Elementary built birdhouses, held beaver pelts and walked through woods on Thursday.
The students were among those who participated in this week’s Conservation Field Day, held at Praise Acres, a large natural area near Palmetto Road west of Verona.
This was the 26th year the event has been hosted by the Lee County Soil and Water Conservation District and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services. Fifth graders from Plantersville Middle attended on Tuesday and those from Saltillo Elementary did so on Wednesday.
Thursday was Shannon Elementary’s day. The students rotated through nine stations that ringed a pond. At one, a representative from the Natchez Trace Parkway spoke to them about animals that are native to Mississippi and showed them pelts and skulls from beavers, bobcats, raccoons and others. At another, a Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks biologist displayed pictures of various fish that are natural to the state’s waters.
“You get to learn from scientists and people who are actually in the field,” said Charlie Williams, 10, a fifth grader at the school.
The students learned how insects affect the health of an environment, viewed a demonstration about the water cycle, toured a forestry exhibit, played games and learned about the harm of litter. They also nailed together a bluebird house they were able to take back to their classroom.
“It is so much easier for them to teach conservation here than in the classroom where they don’t have all of these props,” said Dan Bagley, district conservationist for the USDA NRCS who has helped with this event for the past 15 years.
Shannon fifth-grade science teacher Holly Martin said the trip is a way for the students to connect what they learn in the classroom to real life.
“They’ll use this all year,” she said. “In years past, we’d be reviewing for a science test, and the students would say, ‘We learned this at Praise Acres.'”
Bagley said the event is important because it teaches students the importance of conservation, which he defined as “wise use of a resource.”
Martin noted that it also helped the students to learn these lessons in Lee County.
“It is really interesting to see the light bulb in their head go off at every station,” she said. “For them, it is close to home, and they realize this is in their backyard.”