Buffalo National River, Northark Partner on Workshop

Steele Creek


Press Release


PONCA, Ark. – Local students have an opportunity to take part in a fun, hands-on science workshop this year, thanks to a promising new partnership between the National Park Service Buffalo National River (BNR) and North Arkansas College (Northark).

The pilot course is entitled “Environmental Microbiology Workshop” and spans May 23-27, 2016.  Provided free this year to participants, space in the program is limited so students should sign up quickly.

Field trips will be taken to Steele Creek where towering bluffs and the Buffalo River will set the stage for research conducted by high school students, science teachers and college students.  Students can expect to learn water collection techniques, common bacteria culturing techniques for identifying types, use of microscope for typing bacteria and much more.

The class will last 8 hours each day and include a combination of lectures, laboratory exercises and field trip learning experiences.  Snacks will be provided.

BNR and Northark have a shared goals for the workshop:

  • Increase the number of learning opportunities for students and teachers in the fields Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
  • Provide a community service outreach project.
  • Build relations with area teachers and STEM students to bring awareness of Northark’s education opportunities and awareness of the value of the Buffalo National River as a community resource.
  • Provide teachers and area environmental professionals with a much needed continuing education opportunity.
  • Provide area STEM students (public high schools, area home school students) with an introduction to the world of microbiology in environmental science.
  • Provide BNR with a bacteria strain diversity list for the bacteria group comprising “total coliforms” for the use in interpreting environmental data release to public health and safety in water-based reaction.
  • Provided basis for future collaboration and grant applications.
  • Provide material for presentation by Northark and BNR to be shared state-wide and across the nation.

BNR and Northark realize the need to create and promote STEM learning opportunities in America has become concerning and apparent for both the high school teachers and STEM Advanced Placement (AP) students.

Nationally in 2011, 32% of eighth grade students performed at or above the proficient level in science; for AP students, only 19.5% of AP test takers in the class of 2012 earned a qualifying score on an AP exam; and for STEM students entering college, only 38% of students who start with a STEM major graduate with one. The need to assist teachers in continuing education is also apparent. In 2007, about one third of public middle school science teachers either did not major in the subject in college and/or are not certified to teach it. (NMS, 2016).

For more information about the program contact Faron Usrey at (870) 265-2764 or by email @Faron_Usrey@nps.gov.  To enroll visit www.northark.edu/ce or call Northark Community Education at (870) 391-3100.

This program is provided free to participants and is funded by the Buffalo National River, North Arkansas College and the North Arkansas College Foundation.


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