Calling all science educators and people interested in the natural environment around us to a free opportunity to learn from and collaborate with one of Discover magazine’s “50 Best Brains in Science.” This is a chance to help develop curriculum that will teach your students for a lifetime.

On Tuesday, March 22 at 7 p.m. at the Fayette County Courthouse, educator-naturalist Bill Hilton Jr. and the New River Birding & Nature Center will be working with local public and private school teachers, home-school educators, scoutmasters, and others to develop a locally based curriculum enhancement that teaches the importance of watersheds and wetlands. Once programs are developed, students and adult learners will be invited for hands-on instruction at Wolf Creek Park’s unique wetlands boardwalk. Water quality testing, aquatic life, and other flora and fauna will all be used to show the value of wetlands and human impacts on them.

The project is presented through funding from the West Virginia Development Office Flex-E-Grant Program and Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation.

Hilton, the only scientist studying ruby-throated hummingbirds on their wintering grounds in Central America, developed citizen science hummingbird observation protocols for The GLOBE Program’s Hands-On-Science Network through NASA. He was a delegate to the prestigious National Youth Science Camp in Pocahontas County and served on staff during many later summers.

With more than 30 years in the public schools and at the university level as a biology instructor, Hilton is highly qualified to provide memorable learning experiences to young people and adults. His lifetime of exemplary work in science education and natural history was acknowledged in 2008 by Discover magazine.

“We have an incredible instructional asset at Wolf Creek Park with a boardwalk that actually enables us to get out into a vibrant, living wetlands,” says Fayette County Resource Coordinator Dave Pollard. “Hilton uses this resource and his teaching skills to excite learners of all ages about natural wonders right here in Fayette County.

“This past summer,” Pollard said, “Hilton mentored a college student who conducted surveys being used to help develop more effective wetlands management for the state of Ohio. It is incredible when you see young people first learn from a book or lecture and then experience what they’ve learned in the out-of-doors. We are able to do that at Wolf Creek Park in a way that sparks lifelong interest and we want to share that with as many people as we can. The more people know about aquatic habitats and what depends on them, the better chance we have to sustain those environments.”

In March 2010 a feasibility study was completed for the development and sustainability of a Nature Center at Wolf Creek Park. Beginning in 2009, limited programming was developed and delivered at Wolf Creek the second Saturday of each month.

“The  upcoming March 22 meeting will kick off the next phase of development,” Pollard said, “by assessing what teachers and other groups need and want, and then putting it in action through lesson plans that augment what is going on in the classroom and informal education venues. All people in the community, whether they see themselves as teachers or not, are invited to attend.”

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