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Wetlands gets new lease on life as outdoor classroom

April 16th, 2011 1:44 pm by Marci Gore

Wetlands gets new lease on life as outdoor classroom

Gate City Middle School teacher Dawn Williams is among those spearheading the plans to redevelop the wetlands area near the school into an outdoor classroom that students can use for experiments. Photo by David Grace.

A protected wetland area in Gate City, Va., long forgotten and neglected ––  and teeming with mosquitoes ––  is getting a new lease on life. The area, recently dubbed Lake Fleming Wetlands, in honor of Rick Lake and Scot Fleming, band teachers at Gate City Middle and High schools, is located across from the National Guard Armory on Harry Fry Drive. It is being developed into an outdoor classroom, complete with two rain gardens, a walkway across the wetlands, stairs, a fence, benches,  tables and native fish.

But it won’t be just the students at nearby Gate City Middle and High schools who will benefit from the project. Organizers say they welcome educators and students from other southwest Virginia schools, as well as school systems from nearby Tennessee, too.

“When I was in school, you could only learn so much in a book,” said Matthew Wood, conservation specialist with the Scott County Soil and Water Conservation District. “Eventually students will be able to go down to this pond and learn something just as basic from a frog egg developing into a tadpole and then into an adult frog, or they can go down there and collect water samples and study them.”
Wood and Dawn Williams, a life science teacher at Gate City Middle School, have been instrumental in launching the wetlands project.

Before moving to the middle school, Williams taught sixth grade at Shoemaker Elementary School in Gate City.

“When I was at Shoemaker, I remember looking out the window, and I recalled the pond there. I remembered playing around it growing up, but as a kid, I didn’t realize what it was. But now, as a science teacher, the more I talked about wetlands and water sheds with my students, the more I started thinking, ‘We have a natural wetlands  right here. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of some of the hands-on experience these kids could get from this pond?’

Read the expanded version of this report in the print edition or the enhanced electronic version of the Kingsport Times-News.

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