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College students get hands-on training in science curriculum

Feb. 10, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- About 20 Marshall University students attended a workshop Saturday which focused on environmental activities that can be taught to children.

The free program was hosted by Karen McClure, the Project WILD coordinator for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. She introduced Growing Up Wild, a relatively new curriculum guide for children ages 3 to 7. Its goal is to introduce the environment to children in an exciting way through hands-on activities, which the Marshall students did as part of their training.

"People who attend will ... be empowered to teach young children about West Virginia animals," McClure said. "Doing the activities the 3-year-olds do, that's the easiest way to learn."

That included engaging in a running game to collect food and water, making turkey calls out of straws and making art projects.

McClure said it's a great curriculum for teachers, scout leaders, camp instructors, churches and 4-H groups. Most of the Marshall students taking part in the workshop are majors in the Natural Resources and Recreation Management program. Assistant professor Richard Abel says that means many of the students will end up working with children through eventual jobs at state parks, for the Corps of Engineers or for other environmental agencies.

Last summer, Abel said a student was interning at a park in the Smoky Mountains and reported the training in the Project WILD curriculum saved him because he was charged with teaching youth education classes.

"Our students end up being in or around children a lot through scouting or even campus events," Abel said.

He added that students who get into those fields don't do it for the money. Instead, it's because they are passionate about nature, and they will have the opportunity to instill that same fervor in a child that someone did for them when they were young.

Richard Gross, a Marine Corps veteran and father of two, is a senior in the program at Marshall. He said he'll take what he learned at the workshop and use the free curriculum guide to lead some environmental lessons at his son's elementary school in Lincoln County.

"When I graduate and start my second life working in a park setting, I can make a more enjoyable experience (for children)," Gross said.

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