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3-5 | Science & Tech | Geospatial Technologies

Station AETN in Arkansas

My Classroom Innovation

EAST at Sonora Elementary: Technology with Nature Camp. This multidisciplinary project focuses on the natural world of rural Northwest Arkansas. Sonora EAST students mapped park hiking trails, receive GPS/GIS training, learned about endangered birds, geocaching, and completed an aquatic environmental study. Students explored their environment during the summer months. Each student learned how to map local areas using GPS/GIS technology, take photographs of natural wildlife, and explore the aquatic world of Beaver Lake. EAST students were responsible for the planning, instruction, and implementation of this summer day camp. During the 2012 summer, the EAST program at Sonora Elementary allowed students, kindergarten through 3rd grade, to learn about these environmental and spatial areas of education. Sonora is a rural community just East of Springdale, Arkansas. Beaver Lake and the White River tail-waters literally border our school and make up a large part of our spatial surroundings. While working with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Arkansas Environmental Education Association, the Springdale Public Schools Education Foundation, and the Beaver Lake Project’s Office, Sonora EAST was able to provide an educational service to any student in the Northwest Arkansas district between the ages of 4 and 9. This project is really about getting kids off the couch during the summer months and exploring the nature in our local community. This camp possesses some amazing technology that has helped entice a lot of younger kids to check out the area. Arkansas has a rare natural beauty and our EAST kids want to help get younger kids active and involved around the area.

How Students were Engaged

With the help of the EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology) Initiative and the Arkansas Department of Education with the EAST Summer Grant opportunity, our EAST kids successfully hosted a summer camp to 30+ young students in the Northwest Arkansas area. We really focused on exposing younger children to high grade technology, so that they can learn through pushing buttons, trial & error, and even exploring. We had five year olds using ArcGIS (a professional grade mapping software by ESRI) to map local park hinging trails. They used Tremble Juno SB Units (professional grade GPS handheld units) to chart when and when they observed specific types of wildlife during their time at summer camp. Students went on scavenger hunts and geocached through the wilderness of Northwest Arkansas. We even observed the aquatic life of the White River and Beaver Lake, which our kids went on a fishing trip and even housed a 65 gallon fish tank in our classroom to document their natural habitat and growth. In doing so, Sonora EAST students were self-directed and designed this project based on their interests and talents. They utilized teamwork by working with their peers and community to collaborate together to solve local problems. They used some really advanced technology that is industry-grade and highly sophisticated to solve the problems that they identified in our Sonora community. We went above and beyond the traditional ‘community service’; our students personally identified and worked to solve these problems. These are all major strides towards success that we see daily in our EAST program at Sonora Elementary.

PBS Program/Content Used