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(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BENNING, Ga., (June 4, 2014) -- Seventh-grade students from Faith Middle School were challenged to put their land management skills to the test with a yearlong project with the Directorate of Public Work's Environmental Management Division.

A science, technology, engineering and mathematics partnership between Fort Benning's Department of Defense Education Activity and DPW's Environmental Management Division developed the 400-acre Wood Project to help students understand how land is managed holistically within an ecosystem, said Tannis Danley, the Environmental Management Division's air program manager.

"We assigned each class a 400-acre parcel of land that happens to be located on Fort Benning and we gave them all of the information that we have in our natural resources branch about that land, such as topography and types of soil," Danley said.

"We asked them to develop a plan and describe to us how they would manage that land. We also gave them a fictitious land owner assigned to each track of land with specific requirements, from creating a hunting preserve to wildlife and ecotourism."

Students were taken on a field trip to a nature trail on Fort Benning to understand various aspects of land management. Teachers divided the students into groups to create written reports and develop three-dimensional models of the projects.

Language arts and reading teacher Lorri Lane said the project combined several subjects with real-world occupations and inspiration to think outside of the box.

"The students were excited from the beginning," Lane said. "In today's world, students have to be able to analyze and synthesize information, look at a resource and know if it's reliable. Being the inaugural group for this project, this was learning process for all of us."

On May 28, students presented their projects to staff from the Environmental Management Division. Seventh-grader Alexis Sizemore and her group used the 400 acres to design a park and wildlife preserve with recreational opportunities for their landowner, his family and the surrounding community.

"I found that creating a 3D model for the aesthetics of the park really excited me," she said. "We were really confident about presenting this because we knew we did a really good job."

After the presentations, the DPW team presented a plaque to students in hope that the project would continue in the future.

"You can tell a lot of effort was put into this and every student did their part to bring it together," said Joey Thames, DPW construction specialist. "In future years, we hope to increase participation, have greater understanding of the concepts and have a competition between classrooms. This should drive the quality of the product and get better every year."