Newly Expanded Education Program Introduces More Utah Students to the Magic of the Great Salt Lake
The Nature Conservancy Joins Forces with USU Botanical Center to Expand Popular Program
SALT LAKE CITY, UT | October 18, 2012
The Nature Conservancy and USU Botanical Center are announcing a new partnership to expand the Wings & Water Wetlands Education Program—an award-winning initiative designed to bring 4th-grade students on guided field trips to The Nature Conservancy’s Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve and the USUBC’s Wetland Discovery Point.
First established by The Nature Conservancy in 2005, the Wings & Water program has reached more than 8,500 4th-grade students to date. The program centers on an educational field trip, led by naturalist guides, to the Conservancy’s visitor center at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve along the Lake’s eastern shore in Layton. Wings & Water teachers and students also receive free print and digital activities and teaching materials to help them explore targeted lessons about the wetlands ecosystem.
“I think there is a growing awareness that experiences in nature play a critical role in childhood education and development,” explains Dave Livermore, The Nature Conservancy’s Utah State Director. “We are thrilled to tap the educational expertise and capacity of USU Botanical Center to broaden the reach and impact of the Wings & Water program.”
Through the new collaboration, the Conservancy and the USU Botanical Center aim to increase the number of participating 4th-graders by 70 percent in the next 3 years, encompassing more school districts and expanding to other grade levels. Already this year, tour spots for classes are filling fast, forecasting more than 1,000 students scheduled for field trips by June 2013. Currently the program sees most involvement from schools in the Davis and Salt Lake districts, but program coordinators expect that to change as staff and volunteer capacity increases.
“We have long admired The Nature Conservancy’s work to get kids out into the wetlands,” says David Anderson, Director of the USU Botanical Center. “This groundbreaking partnership will fuse together the energy of two successful education programs to bring nature to even more kids than we could reach alone.”
The newly expanded Wings & Water program is made possible by a generous grant from Kennecott Utah Copper. Since its establishment in 1984, the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve has benefited from the support of many private and public supporters throughout Utah. Today, the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve spans more than 4,700 acres—11 shoreline miles—and is a crucial nesting and foraging area for the Lake’s globally important populations of migratory birds and waterfowl. Thanks to an award-winning visitor center, the preserve’s habitats are a haven for humans as well. Each year, thousands of children and adults visit the preserve to experience the wetlands, watch the spectacular birdlife and learn about the importance of these habitats.
The USU Botanical Center educates Utahns of all ages about the conservation and wise use of plant, water, and energy resources. In addition to many outreach programs and educational opportunities, including an urban fishery, garden and recreational trails, the Center is proud to welcome visitors to Wetland Discovery Point. This LEED-certified building is the centerpiece of wetland education programs that involve thousands of school children each year and support teachers with activities that reinforce concepts from their grade’s core science curriculum. The building is situated in the wetland area surrounding the Kaysville ponds where guests learn about the importance of urban wetlands.
Both organizations site an increasing interest in the Great Salt Lake ecosystem as a reason to expand educational opportunities for Utah students.
“The bottom-line is that teachers, parents and most importantly, kids, are reaping the benefits of the Wings & Water Program,” said Melinda McAllister, the program coordinator. “Many of them have never visited the Great Salt Lake or the surrounding wetlands, and the experience—where they can watch, hear, smell and feel the life of the wetlands—is simply remarkable.”
The USU Botanical Center guides the conservation and wise use of plant, water, and energy resources through researched-based educational experiences, demonstrations, and technology. The Center is the result of a shared vision and partnership between Utah State University, public agencies, individuals, civic groups, businesses, and foundations - important alliances that are bringing the center to fruition. Visit the USU Botanical Center on the web at www.usubotanicalcenter.org.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at www.nature.org. To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit www.nature.org/global. To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.