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Sept. 15, 2003
Reading, Writing, Wetlands: TPWD Unveils New Education Program
AUSTIN, Texas – Ann Miller wants today’s children to get out of the classroom. There’s a lot of Texas beyond the brick walls and hopscotch courts, and it’s calling to be explored.
“We’re trying to encourage teachers to get their students outside experiencing the world first-hand,” said Miller, aquatic education coordinator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
That just got easier with the new Texas Wetland Education Trunk, which is now available to be loaned out to teachers, scout leaders and camp counselors who wish to go a step beyond reading, writing and arithmetic. The trunk includes suggestions and equipment for both classroom and field activities tailored to different grade levels. Teachers can use the trunk for up to a month of time, depending upon the amount of requests each loaner location receives.
Wetlands in Texas are as diverse as the creatures living in them. The marshes, mud flats, deltas and stream banks keep the state in balance. But in some cases, humans have filled them up, drained them dry and used them for dumping waste.
“It’s important to let the public know about wetlands because wetlands provide very important goods and services to the public,” Miller said. “Coastal wetlands are nursery grounds for many of our most sought-after sportfish and crabs.”
Nearly 90 percent of the fish in Texas depend on wetlands for the first stages of their lives. Wetlands also control pollution and erosion and reduce flood damage, saving Americans nearly $30 billion a year in flood-related repair costs.
These wildlife sanctuaries span the state, often fed by springs, lakes or rivers. In West Texas, those wetlands—cienegas—sustain fish and other animals that defy the dry desert laws.
Learning about them will help to stem wetland destruction in the future or bring them back (as was the case in Balmorhea State Park, which restored a cienega after nearly 70 years of spring diversion).
“Children are going to be future voters and landowners. It is important for them to grow up with this knowledge about wetlands,” Miller said.
There are 25 trunks out for loan across Texas that contain field guides, activities, posters, casts of animal tracks, audio CDs featuring the sound of wetland amphibians, videos about different Texas wetlands and invertebrate collecting equipment.
A new booklet, Texas Treasures: Wetlands, is also available to the public and makes a colorful state-specific reference book for educators. The booklet details types of wetlands in Texas, the wildlife they support, and how humans can help maintain healthy wetlands across the state. It also provides an additional reference for readers interested in wetlands.
For more information regarding the education kits and loaner locations, visit the Web site (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/edu/teacher.phtml) or call Miller at (512) 389-4732.
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