In 1996, the WCCD began its Education Program with grant funding from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture using matching mill levy funds. This program has grown steadily each year. The goal of the Natural Resource Education Program is: To provide quality education/information to Washakie County residents that promotes a knowledge and appreciation of the conservation of natural resources, and of our local resource base, by utilizing a "hands-on" and interactive leaning approach.
Conservation Poster Contest
Each year, the WCCD conducts a conservation poster contest for 2nd and 5th grade classes in Washakie County, which coincides with the National Association of Conservation District's Soil and Water Stewardship Week's week. Presentations highlighting the stewardship theme are made for these classes and the students create a poster, which is judged for its applicability to the theme. Contest winners are awarded prizes and photographed for the local paper. Grand Prize Posters are sent on to be judged at both the state and national level.
The Washakie County Conservation District (WCCD) continues to assist Washakie County schools in their efforts to recycle by supplying classroom recycling bins. In most of Washakie County's schools; the students that are responsible for emptying the bins.
Each year, all of Worland's 4th grade classes learn about recycling at the local landfill with a field trip and classroom activities. In the classroom, students sort, weigh, and record the contents of their bin, to understand the volume of recycling happening in the school. The students then teach other classrooms about what paper products are recyclable. To close the recycling learning loop, the students make recycled paper.
The District's Outdoor Classroom, which is located approximately 3 miles south of Worland, is utilized for a wide variety of natural resource/agriculture education. The property is leased by the District from a local landowner for the purpose of providing area youth with a place to study natural resource topics. At the Outdoor Classroom, activities have included:
- The Study of Plants
- The Study of Water
- Water Quality Studies
- Wyoming Game and Fish's Stream Trailer
- Bat Studies
- Field Trips and Other Activities
There are sixteen varieties of grasses, thirteen varieties of shrubs and trees, and of course, there are a few weed species that blow in and make their presence known. This variety provides the opportunity for studying plants from roots to seeds. Studies include, leaf shapes, seed dispersal types, plant identification, plant classification, tree planting, scavenger hunts and more. The Outdoor Classroom includes a Xeriscape demonstration plot, thanks to a grant from the USDA Bighorn Forest. WCCD partnered with the Worland High School (WHS) horticulture class and the Chief Washakie FFA to develop and install the plots. Students from the horticulture class used the site as a hands-on project to learn about xeric plants, landscape design principles, and soil properties. The students have started many of the plants in the WHS greenhouse. The FFA chapter got the project started by using their tractor and implements to do the soil preparation.
The Outdoor Classroom has a wetland development that is a wonderful place to study about water properties, water conservation and water habitats. WCCD working with the third grade teachers incorporated Outdoor Classroom activities with a presentation of the Enviroscape® and Groundwater Flow models, to enhance their water cycle studies.
The "pond" can also be an excellent place to learn about amphibians such as frogs, toads, and salamanders, as well as a host of aquatic insects. Tadpoles are the critter of choice every few years when the pond is alive with them. Boys and Girls Club members have captured tadpoles then watched their dramatic change into frogs in an aquarium at the center. When the change is complete, they have a release day, back to the Outdoor Classroom. Many a net full of insects have been hoisted out of the pond to be viewed by elementary and middle school students. Students learn about dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, beetles and beetle larvae, mosquito and fly larvae, water striders, backswimmers and others. No matter how much time they have, it seems they always want more time to observe these fascinating creatures of the aquatic world.
Since 2002, WCCD has assisted the 6th grade classes each year in the International Day of Water Quality Monitoring. Each year, all of the 6th grade students from Worland Middle School spend the day on a field trip to learn about the local landscape and conduct water quality monitoring. The students rotate through ten different subject centers where they learn about, plants, wildlife, geology, aquatic insects, fire ecology, using global positioning units and collecting water quality data.
The Advanced Biology class at Worland High School has also taken on an ambitious water quality monitoring curriculum study in the fall of each year. Four streams representing different riparian habitats are monitored each year. The students study chemical, physical and biological aspects of the streams. The chemical properties included tests for pH, Nitrates, and Ortho-phosphates. The physical properties include temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, discharge, width to depth measurements, substrate materials, and a mapping the site. The biological aspect includes testing for e-coli, a look at the aquatic insect population, noting the types of fish present and the riparian vegetation. After all the information is collected on each site the students working in groups, analyze the data and write reports for each of the sites.
The Conservation District assists the Worland High School teachers each year with the use of the Wyoming Game and Fish's "Stream Trailer", the trailer is a self contained watershed model. It is used to teach basic hydrology and stream morphology principals, and make the learning hands-on and fun. In the trailer sand, students' set-up varying watershed features (i.e. meandering or steep straight channels or channels with bridges or culverts), speculate and discuss what will happen in the watershed, and then turn on the water to see how their watershed will function.
WCCD helps the Worland High School Advanced Biology class in its effort to study one of nature's most elusive creatures, Bats. With funding from a Wyoming Game and Fish Project Wild grant and a Wyoming Community Foundation's Governors' Youth Initiative grant WCCD was able to purchase two different types of echolocation equipment for the Advanced Biology Students to monitor bat activity. The students use this equipment to conduct a wildlife study.
Each year the new group of students studies the past data collected and carry out research before coming up with their own study hypothesis for the year. Then they set up a monitoring plan and schedule, designed to try to prove their hypothesis. The monitoring includes the use of "mini" bat echolocators, which indicate presence/absence and the use of the Anabat ® echolocation system which electronically records the bats echolocation calls and reproduces them in a graph format. This format can then be used to identify the species of bats present as each species has a unique signature of frequency and cadence of their calls. The students have a four week monitoring schedule and at the end of that time frame they must compile their data and write a report. The project is intended to teach the process of a wildlife study and this hands-on learning experience comes complete with all the additions that "mother nature" throws at professional researchers.
As part of the bat study WCCD along with Wyoming Game and Fish personnel provide an optional field trip to capture bats with mist nets. The students do all the work setting up and taking down the nets and a G&F "bat handler" takes the bats out of the net once they are caught. The students help the handler weigh, identify the sex, and take body measurements before releasing the bat. Students that had once thought of bats as "mice with wings" now have a new appreciation for this flying mammal.
WCCD assists area teachers with a number of other field trips and activities. A winter field trip to the Big Horn Mountains to learn about how wildlife and humans adapt to winter conditions has the students practicing their snow shoeing and cross country skiing skills. Geology is another Big Horn Mountain field trip; students take a bus ride back in geologic time, collect samples of rocks and learn about the forces that shaped the landscape.
Visiting local farms to learn about irrigation systems and water conservation puts the students in contact with area producers and connects the food they eat to the place it is grown. Field studies on area ranches help the students learn the connection between the rancher and the natural resource.
Boy Scout Troops and 4-H Clubs have assisted WCCD with marking Worland's storm drains for the past twelve years with the slogan "Dump No Waste, Drains to River", the participants not only provide the labor force, but in the process learn the importance of keeping pollutants off the streets and out of the storm drain.
A field trip to the Nature Conservancy's Ten Sleep Preserve provides grade school students the opportunity to learn all about trees, from the story in a tree ring to the role of fire in the forest. An autumn trip to an apple orchard to the study habitats provides lessons and a tasty treat!