Conservation field day in Lee County

Hope Wallace was among the 775 fifth-graders from schools within Lee County who spent a morning last week learning about soil and fish and trees and wildlife.
The students were participating in the Lee County Soil and Water Conservation field days.
The event, coordinated by the Lee County Soil and Water Conservation District and the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, focused on introducing students to the outdoors and instructing them on the importance of caring for the environment.
It was held at Praise Acres, a plot of private land located not far from where the Natchez Trace intersects with Palmetto Road.
Hope, a fifth-grader at Saltillo Elementary, said she enjoyed building a birdhouse and learning about fish and their food chain. But she also got a kick from being out of the classroom.
“It is very fun being outside,” she said Tuesday when about 260 of her classmates spent the morning at the facility.
Fellow Saltillo fifth-grader Trey Holiman said his favorite part was seeing fish and learning about trees.
Fifth-graders from Plantersville, Shannon, Rankin, TCPS and Lawndale schools also attended the field day on different days during the course of the week.
“This originated 23 years ago because we didn’t have a lot of children growing up on country farms any more,” said Eddie Carnathan, who has retired from the NRCS and volunteered at the field day. “So many people grow up in the city and don’t understand the environment as well.
“We needed an outdoor classroom for children to better understand the environment. It gives them a new perspective of learning.”
Activities encircled a lake and students would move from one station to another about every 15 minutes.
They learned about species of fish and about stocking and managing a lake, about the harm of waste and litter and about the water cycle. The students played a game coordinated by the 4-H and built bluebird houses.
They discussed products that come from trees, identified several trees, looked at skulls and fur of different local animals and learned about Mississippi soil types.
“Conservation is nothing more than the wise use of our resources,” said Dan Bagley, District Conservationist for the NRCS. “With more generations getting farther away from the land, it is important they know that their gallon of milk came from somewhere beside Kroger.
“These students will be the decision makers in the not-so-distant future. They’re given a basic understanding of how to sustain our resources for future generations.”
Many different agencies combined to staff all of the field day’s stations, including Wildlife and Fisheries, Forestry Commission, Rural Development, Farm Service Administration, Extension Service and other volunteers.
The students also had lunch on the grounds and came together at the end to review what they had learned.
Saltillo Elementary fifth-grade language arts teacher JoAnn Duke said she has been taking classes to the field day since its first year.
Duke said that her students would be writing about what they learned at field day, extending the lessons back to the classroom.
“One of the greatest benefits of this is that it is integrated arts,” Duke said. “We are taking what they see in the classroom and giving them field experience. It is a great question-and-answer opportunity, which encourages higher-level thinking.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal