Guy Fenter education cooperative and the Janet Huckabee Nature Center recently hosted the first bioblitz teacher professional development in the region. Bioblitzes are community efforts to engage the public in connecting with the local environment through intensively investigating a selected location and recording information about all matter of plants and animals that are found there. During a bioblitz, citizens work alongside of scientists to discover the biological diversity within the community. The activity provides a snapshot of the local ecology to the scientist while, at the same time, allowing teachers and students an opportunity to develop knowledge and to develop a stronger connection to their home environment.
Mrs. Amber Cobb and Dr. Curtis Varnell of the educational cooperative organized the regional workshop which was attended by 23 area teachers. During the two-day bioblitz, the teachers teamed with area experts as they examined and identified a recently cleared area at the nature center. The local bioblitz concentrated in examining three specific biological studies. Ethan Parker, an employee of the U/A agriculture extension service, assisted the teachers in learning about insects and bugs. Chad Lowe, a game and fish expert, assisted the teachers in discovering and identifying the myriad trees, plants, and shrubs found in the area and Patrick Millard of Waldron assisted in the identification of birds and wildlife.
Each of the instructors provided needed information and field guides to teachers and followed up with an intensive outside investigation of the selected region to be studied. The activity proved a great learning experience and a lot of fun. Teachers ran back and forth, swinging catch nets and identifying species of insects they captured. Others beat the brush around the lake, identifying the species of organisms both in and out of the water. Equipped with binoculars, magnifying glasses, field-books, catch bags, and field guides, they looked like tourists on safari but were having a wonderful time learning!
Teachers will take the experience and activities back to area schools as the reopen in mid-August. Working with the educational cooperative, they are already planning school wide bioblitzes in their communities. Additionally, the Fenter cooperative and the Huckabee Center will be hosting a student version of the bioblitz this fall. Dozens of students from throughout the River Valley will journey to the Nature Center to experience their own version of the bioblitz. Not only will they collect data valuable to the community, they will learn biology, learn to work cooperatively with other students, and discover the type of work done by scientist.
Area schools are continually changing and developing new and better techniques to educate our youth. Bioblitzes are just one more facet that will add excitement and interest to the education of our students.