Beneath the clusters of oak trees in the middle of an enormous military installation, students learned about the earth, conservation and sustaining natural resources.
In conjunction with Earth Day — which is officially April 22 — Fort Hood hosted 1,035 third- through fifth-graders in an outreach effort through the post’s Directorate of Public Works Environmental office.
Students rotated to stations, where they heard from city and Fort Hood officials about the benefits of biodiversity, clean air and water and how residents can use less and sustain more.
“Fort Hood (DPW) Environmental enjoys reaching out to youth and educating them about the environment and sustainability,” said Christine Luciano, who coordinates outreach efforts in the community.
During the event Friday, students took part in ceremonies to plant a tree before participating in the learning stations and ending the day celebrating with a steel drum ensemble and seeing a series of endangered animals.
Teachers said they appreciated the effort to bring children into the outdoors and to present topics compatible with the state’s science curriculum.
They liked the fun, too.
The effort is drawing a bigger crowd. This year, students came from five Killeen Independent School District schools, one in Copperas Cove ISD and one in Temple ISD.
Also, science club members from Texas A&M University-Central Texas joined the effort, sharing a passion for conservation with the younger students.
“We want to engage students at a young age so they will take this information to their families and to their peers,” said Luciano.
At one station, students learned there is good and bad ozone and that air quality declines during the day when human activity combines with the sun’s heat to create a chemical reaction.
When residents use the air conditioner and other appliances excessively, the level of ground level ozone rises and can make breathing more difficult, according to speakers and printed material.
Another station focused on biodiversity at Fort Hood, showing efforts to protect deer and other wildlife and native plants from urban development.
One station called on students to compete in an obstacle course, picking up recyclable items as they completed physical challenges.
“It’s awesome,” said Clarke Elementary School third-grade teacher Brittain Bright. “This allows students to relate to what they are learning in the classroom.”
She said her students seemed to enjoy the recycle relay and learning about creek ecosystems and identifying kinds of fish.
“I think this is an amazing experience,” said Duncan Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Amanda Bevan. “It gets us out of the classroom where we can see the importance of earth and Earth Day and how our actions affect the earth.”