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Traveling Display Teaches About Deer
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A curriculum made for kids to get their hands on won a statewide educational award as it makes the rounds of Mississippi schools teaching youth about white-tailed deer.
About 18,000 third and fourth graders have viewed the display either in their schools or at special events in the two years it has been in existence. Called the Mobile White-Tailed Deer Classroom, it is a school enrichment program developed by the Mississippi 4-H Field and Stream program, part of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Dean Stewart, Extension wildlife specialist, coordinates the program on a state level. Modeled after a similar display in Texas, the white-tailed deer curriculum was the first of its kind in Mississippi, but will soon be followed by similar displays on other wildlife topics.
"We've always wanted a way to get into the schools systems in Mississippi to reach kids with our educational programs," Stewart said. "White-tailed deer are probably the most popular game animal in Mississippi, so we thought it would be good to make our first school enrichment module on this topic."
The 8 feet by 10 feet display has pictures, narrative, a mounted buck and doe, and antlers from one deer over its six-year lifetime. A 13-lesson curriculum, slide show and video accompany the display. The entire display fits in a pull-behind trailer and can be assembled by one person.
"Teachers usually set the display up where several classes can see it," Stewart said. "After a class has viewed the display, they can use the lesson plans, activities, video and slide show to teach more about white-tailed deer in Mississippi."
Stewart said the display focuses on the deer, their habitat, uses and management and is available for public and private school students, as well as special events.
Students take a test before participating in the learning project and take a follow-up test afterwards. Test results show the students learn a lot about white-tailed deer from the curriculum.
Patti Edwards, a third grade teacher at Park View Elementary School in Meridian, was the first teacher to use the white-tailed deer curriculum in her classroom. She got the display in October 1997 and found it to be very successful.
"My kids just went wild over it," Edwards said. "I used the lesson plans and it was very easy to incorporate into my curriculum."
Edwards set the display up in the back of her classroom and made it available for all the kindergarten through fifth grade classes in her school to view. Some students, staff and parents even came after school hours to learn from the display.
"I think having more of these type of displays would be great," Edwards said. "Anything hands-on that the kids can get into is appealing to them and an easy way to learn."
Stewart said future displays are expected to feature bobwhite quail, aquatic ecology, threatened or endangered species, and restoration of wildlife species in Mississippi.
In early May, the curriculum was one of 13 programs across the state honored with an award from the Public Education Forum of Mississippi. This organization recognizes innovative educational programs for schools, and gave this award for excellence. MSU was the only university to receive such an award this year from the Forum.