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"Herp Walk" Project Background


 

THE WALK TO YELLOWSTONE

During the 1998-99 school year, East Aiken Elementary School (in Aiken, SC) conducted an ambitious school-wide project—children and teachers participated in a 2500-mile "Walk to Yellowstone National Park." Of course the school didn’t literally make the trek, but they did put in the miles by walking the school track. Teachers and kids walked before school. They walked during some physical education classes. They walked occasionally during regular class, and during off hours, and sometimes on weekends. In case the point is not clear, they did lots of walking.

Although one important goal of the project was physical fitness, many other aspects made the endeavor the success that it was. The "virtual trail" was posted on a giant map in the cafeteria, and each week the miles were tallied and the progress was marked on the map. At the start of a week an announcement was made about the area the kids would be walking through that week, along with information and questions about some of the sights. Classroom teachers had the opportunity to incorporate "The Walk" into their normal lesson plans in any ways that they chose. Part of the project (given the destination) was a yearlong penny collection to raise funds to adopt endangered wolves—the 650 kids collected over $1200 and adopted 52 wolves through the Defenders of Wildlife wolf program. Given the traits that the project encouraged—generosity, perseverance, and kindness—the program was incorporated into the school’s "Character First©" program.

THE "HERPS OF THE SOUTHEAST" VIRTUAL WALK

In the 1999-2000 school year East Aiken Elementary put on its walking shoes once again. In the "Herps of the Southeast" walk-a-thon East Aiken teamed up with PARC in an effort to educate kids about the amphibians and reptiles of their region. The school embarked on another long walk, covering parts of ten southeastern states. Kids began their hike on September 1, 1999, and then traveled along Atlantic and Gulf coastal trails, walked inland, passed through the mountains, and completed their circuit by arriving back in Aiken in mid-May, 2000. Along the way they learned about historical sites, ecology, geography, and 36 species of reptiles and amphibians. And oh...they raised over $850 for the PARC Conservation Fund for amphibians and reptiles. From PARC to East Aiken SPARC (Student Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation) members, we thank you.

The SPARC walk module

Each week the East Aiken classes had the opportunity to learn about additional species of reptiles or amphibians from the Southeast. Researchers at the Savannah River Ecology Lab (SREL) developed fact sheets and other materials that teachers used to enhance the learning process. This module remains a "work in progress" (as you will see), and as additional information resources become known for various areas along the trail we will add them. If you would like to follow the path that the East Aiken kids took on their virtual trek, then click on the appropriate hot spots on the map. Much of the geographic information is being revamped, but for most species the species fact sheets are available. Remember—no cheating…if you want do experience it as East Aiken did, then prepare to hit the trail!

Contacts: If you or your school would like to learn more about this project, the following folks can be contacted. Remember, this is a relatively new project, but it is one that we think can be a model educational module for other regions. There are still many kinks to be worked out, and we would appreciate your comments and suggestions. Contact David Scott, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory <scott(at)srel.uga.edu>.