HOPE, Ark. -(Ammoland.com)- Students from Hampton in Calhoun County trekked two hours across the southern portion of state last week to learn all about ducks, as part of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Waterfowl Field Experience.
The program, coordinated by Tisa Bomar, AGFC’s Federal Junior Duck Stamp Coordinator, is a way to blend a typical school field trip with a close-up view of Arkansas’s wildlife, complete with demonstrations from AGFC biologists.
Hampton was among five schools that received $300 grants this year from the AGFC for a Waterfowl Field Experience. Hampton’s students included children from sixth grade through high school.
Assisting Bomar in the program were Linda Goodner, AGFC southwest regional education coordinator; and biologists Mike Harris, Eley Talley, Brodie Whatley and Cameron Tatom from the Hope Regional Office.
AGFC Waterfowl Program Coordinator Luke Naylor and AGFC Statewide Wetlands Habitat Coordinator Jason “Buck” Jackson were instrumental in coordinating all five field experience sessions and taking the role of instructor at many of them.
The students broke into two groups to alternate between morning programs explaining duck anatomy and habitat, enjoyed a picnic lunch at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pavilion at Beard’s Bluff off Lake Millwood, and were quizzed by Goodner about a duck’s role in the ecosystem of a lake.
About 2,000 gadwalls were making Lake Millwood home on a brisk but sunny day, and the students were provided binoculars to spot the ducks and other wildlife before boarding the school bus for a return home.
The hands-on experience – learning about the differences in ducks, what they eat, where they live, and how the AGFC tracks their migrations – provides knowledge these students can incorporate in their artistic efforts for the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program.
Part of the requirement in receiving the field experience grant is that the schools must enter the Arkansas Junior Duck Stamp Contest.
Students from kindergarten to high school throughout the state are encouraged to enter the Arkansas Junior Duck Stamp drawing contest, and the deadline for entries is March 15.
The Junior Duck Stamp Program is an arts and science curriculum that teaches wetlands and waterfowl conservation. It includes a visual arts curriculum and the art contest, and can include a Waterfowl Field Experience. It is open to public, private, home-schooled and art studio students.
For the upcoming Arkansas Junior Duck Stamp Contest, students will be judged in four groups according to grade level. Three first-, second- and third-place entries are chosen for each group.
Judges choose a “Best of Show” from the 12 first-place winners regardless of age group. Arkansas’s “Best of Show” is entered in the national Junior Duck Stamp Contest.
The AGFC, through its Conversation License Plate Scholarship Program, awards scholarships to the state’s top three overall winners: Best of Show, $1,000; Overall Second Place, $500; Overall Third Place, $250.
The winning design in the national contest is used for the Junior Duck Stamp the following year. Junior Duck Stamps are sold by the U.S. Postal Service and Amplex Corp. consignees for $5 per stamp. Proceeds from the sale support conservation education and provide scholarships for the national winners, as well as providing awards for students, teachers and schools that participate in the program.
Information for the duck stamp contest can be found on the agency’s website.
A Waterfowl Field Experience grant of $300, to provide for bus rental, fuel and a driver, along with lunch for the field trip, is available to schools throughout the state. Applications for the grant are available online and are usually due in mid-October, with schools being notified in November if they have received the grant. The field experience is designed for up to 100 students per group.