Kinds of the Land: A hands on STEM experience
Bryon Haney, a geospatial engineer for the Southwestern Division, talks to a group of fifth graders about watersheds, elevation model, water use and mapping in water cycle sessions on the ridge in Jack County between Brazos and Trinity Rivers. (Court... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

By Melanie Ellis, SWD Regional Outreach Coordinator

DALLAS - Teachers are always looking for ways to capture their students' interest and to make the learning process fun and exciting. The "Kids on the Land" (KoL) program has found a way to do just that. They've moved the classroom to the great outdoors and have implemented a hands-on learning experience to teach student's science, math and land management practices.

This interactive experience has been in place since 2003 and has allowed more than 2,200 students to have an active role in the learning process. Bryon Haney, Business Technical Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division has been involved with KoL since 2009 and has witnessed the benefits of the program.

"The program is designed to have students participate in every activity and the activities support visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles," said Haney. The program was developed by Peggy Maddox, a veteran educator and landowner living in west Texas.

As a landowner, Haney utilizes holistic land management practices and understands the importance of taking what students are learning in the classroom and applying it in the real world. Haney has had an active role in extending the program to central Texas.

"The benefits of this program are multi faceted," said Haney. "Not only do the activities actively engage the students, it meets the Texas science requirements and reinforces state standardized testing information curriculum (TAKS and Common Core curriculum), the added benefits include students getting excited about learning."

The KoL program was designed for the Trans-Pecos region of Texas and has been adapted for other regions including Cross Timbers and Grand Prairie. It focuses on kindergarten through sixth grade. Students from each grade learn different aspects of life on the land and how that land in turn sustains life. Haney has worked hands on with the fifth grade students in the learning module "Water Here, Water Tomorrow" which allows students to learn how land management helps improve the water cycle.

"This program teaches students how the land and water use impact water availability and water quality down the road," said Haney. "They have an active role in the exercise and by having them spread out and act as rain drops we teach them how water enters into the watershed by having them walk a downhill path and focus on how they are all coming together at various points."

The KoL team has had such a positive response from students and teachers that they are looking for and being encouraged to expand the program. "The biggest response we get from teachers is to please do this training before the state testing takes place because it reinforces what the kids are learning." With current events scheduled in Era, Jacksboro, and Maryneal, Texas, the KoL was excited to be invited to host an event at the Dallas Audubon Center in April.

"We are very excited and interested in expanding this program because we believe in the value that it brings the students," said Haney. "I would like to see the program grow and progress over the next few years to the Corps hosting these learning events at our operations project offices."

Editor's Note: For more information on how to get involved with the Kids on the Land program contact Kids On the Land, Inc. - a Texas 501c3 - Executor Director, Peggy Maddox -P.O. Box 694, Ozona, Texas, 76943