Students enjoy field day lessons

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, April 22, 2009

MONTICELLO – Hundreds of Lawrence County elementary studentsdescended on a quiet farm just outside Monticello Tuesday to enjoya day of learning fun during the Natural Resources Field Day.

“We have been doing this for years for the children,” saidHortense Bass, who hosted the event with her husband, H.B., on thefamily farm. “They’re learning all this in school, so this is anopportunity for them to see it in the outdoors.”

Monticello Elementary School grades two through four andTopeka-Tilton Attendance School and New Hebron Attendance Centergrades two through five attended the event Tuesday. Rod PaigeMiddle School fifth-graders were attending Wednesday.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The Basses partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’sNatural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Soil WaterConservation District (SWCD) to host the event.

“This is one of the biggest things we have every year,” saidNRCS agent Sarah F. Wilcher.

Students circulated among a variety of booths in the woods tolearn forestry techniques, soils and minerals, fossils, thedetrimental effects of pesticides on the environment, beavercontrol and paper production. The booths were operated byprofessionals from many government agencies.

Monticello Elementary School student Karlie Jordan said thetopic she found most interesting was the Mississippi ForestryCommission’s brush fire truck and wildfire discussion.

“I learned how you can put out a fire easier,” she said. “Youcan find a flat thing and just pat it until the fire is out.”

The day was also about fun, however, and several stops on thecircuit taught students valuable lessons or skills throughexercise.

Dr. Stephen Dickie, with the Mississippi State UniversityExtension Forestry office, and Amanda Walker, director of theLawrence County Extension Service, set up an obstacle course wherestudents used a rope swing, crawled through a beaver dam, walked abalance beam, negotiated a stick maze and walked a leaning beamusing a rope.

“It’s mainly so they’ll listen at other stops,” Dickie said.”It’s just for fun. We have other educational stops.”

The obstacle course was a favorite among the students.

“I liked (the field day),” said Jonathan Reeves, a MonticelloElementary School student. “The thing that was the most fun we didwas definitely the obstacle course.”

Reeves said he learned a lot during the field day, but could notexpress it.

“I know what I learned today. I just can’t find the words,” hesaid.

Waldo Cleland, state coordinator for the National Archery inSchools Program of the Foundation for Mississippi Wildlife,Fisheries and Parks, allowed students to shoot arrows from smallcomposite bows.

In addition to providing a fun event at the field day, Clelandsaid he hoped parents and school officials would realize thebenefits of archery and institute an archery program in the countyschools.

In 2007, Cleland said, the Mississippi High School AthleticsAssociation ratified archery as a competitive sport.

“We’re in over 100 schools across the state, but we’re not inLawrence County yet,” he said.

Lincoln County schools do participate, he said, but theBrookhaven School District has not started a team.

Unfortunately, Bass said, they may not be able to host the eventin coming years. The Basses have funded the event themselves withsome donations to help cut costs. The event is held at no cost tothe schools.

However, Martha Watts, a local businesswoman and a SWCD boardmember, said she would keep the tradition going for the childrenshould the Basses be unable to host it.

“I would love to do something where we are,” she said. “This issomething we could do at our place. I don’t want to see it go away.The children look forward to it each year.”

Watts said field trip opportunities are not as plentiful in arural county as they are in some larger cities and the NaturalResource Field Day provides a fun day for the students, but also agreat learning experience.