Students at Jimmy Brown Elementary School in Star City recently took a trip to the Hallowell Waterfowl Research Center at the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area to see ducks and geese in their natural habitat. The fourth graders also gained some hands-on experience in waterfowl identification and tagging.
The trip was funded in part by a grant provided by Arkansas Game and Fish as well as US Fish and Wildlife Services.
“This field trip was in conjunction with our Federal Junior Duck Stamp Contest,” said Suzi Davis, an art teacher at Jimmy Brown Elementary School. “The grant that enabled us to go was established as a way to allow students the opportunity to see Duck Stamp revenues in action and to make a real-life connection to the ducks and geese they will be drawing.”
The Waterfowl Field Experience grant was one of several grants awarded throughout the state for students in grades K-12 who plan to submit entries into the state level of the Junior Duck Stamp Contest. Teachers applying for the grant were given the choice of visiting any nearby state or national wildlife area. “I chose Bayou Meto because I knew it would be an excellent place to study waterfowl,” Davis said.
Students were able to view ducks and geese from the research center’s observation tower.
AGFC biologist Jason Jackson, who specializes in waterfowl habitat, and Arlene Green, East Central Regional Education Coordinator, were there to inform the students of preferred food and water sources as they looked through binoculars and high-powered telescopes.
Wyatt Glover, one of the fourth grade students making the trip, enjoyed watching the ducks through the high-powered telescopes.
“I saw a bunch of ducks, geese, and birds,” Glover said. “I liked it when the geese flew in, but I liked looking at the ducks standing on the ice.”
Eliany Garcia said she liked watching the ducks in flight. “I like how they look and how they fly away,” she said. “The ducks are very cool, great, and beautiful to me.”
Andrew Conner shared some of the information he learned while on the trip. “I learned that ducks eat grass, seeds, and acorns,” Conner said.
Students also had the opportunity to learn about waterfowl tagging and identification from AGFC biologist and Waterfowl Program Coordinator, Luke Naylor. The highlight of the experience was when students were able to practice the banding process.
“My favorite thing about the field trip was when we got to put a band on a duck foot,” said Star Clinghan. “I got to keep the band.”
Some groups had the opportunity to walk along the levee of the lake in hopes of getting a close-up view of waterfowl. Other groups were able to observe the preserved wings of various ducks, seeing how to distinguish the age, gender, and species of a duck.
“I learned how to tell a bird’s age and if it is a male or female all by its wings,” said Matthew Mangiamele.
The final activity for the students was to witness the shooting of a rocket net, which is often used for waterfowl catch-and-release. “I learned that rocket nets shoot very far,” said Lillie Brown.
Bayou Meto is located in Arkansas and Jefferson counties. Consisting of over 33,000 acres, it is one of the largest state-owned Wildlife Management Areas in the nation. It includes several lakes and streams, as well as 13,000 acres of flooded area during the winter season, creating prime habitat for millions of waterfowl.
Sarah Baxter, the federal Junior Duck Stamp Program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, organized all the activities involved during the students’ visit.
“I think the field trip to Bayou Meto was a huge success,” Davis said. “It was very well planned by the AGFC crew, as well as the fourth grade teachers who took care of all the details in getting us there. I feel that the students learned a lot about waterfowl and now have a better understanding of the importance of our Duck Stamp program. My students have already started working on their duck stamp drawings for this year and I can see an increase in their interest and enthusiasm. That’s exactly what I was hoping for.”
This will be Davis’ sixteenth year to participate in the Junior Duck Stamp Contest.