By Shelby Clayton
Photos by Justin Pack
Play is the highest form of research – Albert Einstein.
This philosophy was put into practice when six busloads of elementary students gathered on the last Friday morning in September for the first ever Bosque River Adventure, a learning experience designed to introduce fourth graders to the Bosque River Trail and give them a unique opportunity to learn more about local wildlife and the history of the area. The students were met at the Bosque River Trail and Stephenville Historical House Museum by Tarleton State University students and professors and other volunteers who braved the brisk 52 degree temperatures with coffee and doughnuts in hand, ready to do their part in educating the children.
“I think it [the Bosque River Adventure] is a really good idea. Many of the students may not have had an opportunity to be introduced to things in their community — things that they might not know about otherwise,” said Gina Gaines, a fourth grade English/Language Arts teacher.
The Bosque River Adventure, a day of interdisciplinary activities, is the result of a partnership between Bosque River Trail and Corridor Education Sub-Committee, the city of Stephenville, the Stephenville Independent School District, and Tarleton State University.
“We wanted broad involvement,” said Jill Burk, Tarleton’s representative of the BRTC education sub-committee. “The Bosque Adventure is a great partnership, and we hope that is becomes an annual event students look forward to attending.”
At 9 a.m. the students from Hook Elementary filed off the buses with an abundance of energy and eagerness to start the day. Laughter and the sounds of music and excited conversation filled the air as the students rotated through the ten learning stations that allowed the students to do a wide variety of hands-on activities.
One of the stations focused on identifying local plants and the types of trees that grow along the river. The leader pointed out dandelions, talked about the various trees, and noted invasive plant species. When the bell rang to go to another station, many students were so engaged in the experience that they were reluctant to move on.
Art and music were two of the more interactive stations. Lead by Tarleton art and music majors, the fourth graders had the opportunity to be creative and have a little fun. At the music station, the students played games like “Little Sally Walker” and learned new songs. The art station provided the students an opportunity to take chalk in hand and reveal their artistic sides. They covered the sidewalk in their drawings. Flowers, rainbows, hearts, crowns, cartoon characters, and various other doodles scattered the ground.
The kids squealed and giggled as they held animal models at the station inside the old schoolhouse at the Stephenville Historical House Museum, where they learned about animals that live along the Bosque River. Students listened attentively and showed off their knowledge of birds and other animals. They were asked to identify raccoons, blue birds, foxes, red birds, coyotes, and other animals commonly seen in the area. They were taught about the creatures as well. This was just one of the stations manned by members of Tarleton’s Wildlife Society.
At the next station, students were taught about the ecosystem and habitats surrounding the Bosque River. They learned how ecosystems work and how to protect the ecosystem around the Bosque River Trail so that others can enjoy this experience.
The Wildlife Society also had students play a game about predator/prey relationships. The kids were taught about safety zones and how animals, like quail, survive in the wild. The students also got candy, which one student said made it “the best game ever.”
One of the stations featured Dr. T. Lindsay Baker, a Tarleton professor who specializes in Texas history, standing in front of the John Tarleton Farmhouse, in period clothing teaching students about the Bosque River. The students were mesmerized while listening to Baker speak about Marqués De San Miguel De Aguayo and his naming of the Bosque River. As Baker spoke, several other teachers commented that the students were never so quiet in their own classrooms.
At a station run by Tarleton kinesiology students, the fourth grade students got to burn off a little excess energy. Jumping rope quickly became a contest of “I bet I can go longer without messing up than you,” and “I can jump higher than you.” The students also ran in place, stretched, skipped, and did jumping jacks.
At another station, the fourth graders posed for photographs on the bridge at the Bosque River Trail.
One of the stations that the kids seemed to enjoy the most was about soil erosion. As one student put it: “Cool, we get to play in the dirt!” They learned about different kinds of soil and how the rain affects the Bosque River.
Along with the events of the day, the students were given t-shirts designed by two of their classmates, Jayci Smith and Devin Arms. Devin was enthusiastic about winning the t-shirt contest and getting to spend a day at the park.
And Jayci said she “was nervous about winning at first, but I finally felt a little better after meeting the school board. I’m having a lot of fun.”
The teachers at Hook Elementary believed that the event was a great opportunity.
“It’s been a really great event. It’s great that all of these volunteers are here and that everyone came together for this event,” said Stephanie Atchley, Hook Elementary principal.
The Bosque River Adventure gave volunteers and students alike the opportunity to learn more about the Bosque River Trail and to become more involved in the community. The planners hope this year’s event becomes an annual tradition.