EAST stands for Environmental and Spatial Technology, and is a program found in most Arkansas schools – where it started its grassroots movement to integrate technology and community-based projects into school curriculum while helping solve a community need.
Student groups identify community partners and needs and collaborate to achieve a goal, whether it be a map for quick fire truck routes, posters for school events, community gardens for seniors or school grounds, and in our case, water quality improvement projects such as rain gardens.
EAST student groups installing their rain gardens.
It is exciting to help students learn and utilize technology such as AutoCAD and Adobe Illustrator (and good ol’ graph paper and rulers) to design and implement rain gardens for their campus. Students also learn a lot about our Ozark native plant palette, better understanding their role in water quality and ecological services they provide for our region.
We enjoyed teaching these students new skills and also putting their designs into the landscape, however, the outcome was more than just water quality improvement; we had met great friends, made valuable connections and formed positive partnerships.
Eight EAST teams from Springdale help to plant 25 native trees at the new Lake Springdale Trailhead.
To date, we have worked with 16 EAST groups:
Prairie Grove Middle School, Prairie Grove
Lincoln Elementary, Lincoln
Greenland High School, Greenland
West Fork Middle School, West Fork
Harber High School, Springdale
Springdale High School, Springdale
George Jr. High, Springdale
Southwest Jr. High, Springdale
Lakeside Jr. High, Springdale
J.O. Kelly Middle School, Springdale
Helen Tyson Middle School. Springdale
Hellstern Middle School. Springdale
Sonora Middle school, Springdale
Sonora Elementary, Springdale
Westwood Elementary, Springdale
New School of Innovation, Springdale
Springdale EAST teams are continuing to work with IRWP to map Green Infrastructure along the Razorback Greenway and identify potential areas to enhance riparian buffers. They are also working on using drones to create a video of urban riparian areas and help promote conservation programs to agricultural landowners, such as the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and the newest program, NRCS RCPP Initiative (Regional Conservation Partnerships Program). Two EAST Facilitators would like to archive landowners speaking about the cultural history of their land, as many farms have been with families for generations.
Prairie Grove EAST team plants trees every year for the Riparian Project!
Prairie Grove and Lincoln are partnering to work with Boston Mountain Solid Waste and IRWP to establish a tree farm, where native trees will be grown to be available to landowners who want to protect and enhance their riparian stretches along the Illinois River and its tributaries. Tracie Ashley, PG Middle School EAST Facilitator, has been a recipient of the IRWP Golden Paddle Award in Education and also serves on the IRWP Board of Directors.
Prairie Grove & Lincoln EAST students and parents help build tree farm structures at Boston Mountain Solid Waste, Prairie Grove, Ark. during their EAST Night Out program.
Other groups are working on creating videos for the Illinois River Watershed, looking at aquaponics- a sustainable method of agricultural practice, floating wetlands for phosphorus removal, more rain gardens and low-impact development practices and the list goes on!
Brittany Berry’s EAST team at Helen Tyson Middle School, Springdale, Ark. is working with IRWP’s Founding Board Members to produce a video to capture their vision for the partnership and learned how it all began. Mrs. Berry was recently awarded the 2015 Golden Paddle Award for Education during an evening of celebration at Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville.
We appreciate our partnership with EAST, and together have accomplished so much! One project has opened doors to so much more, and we are thankful for the opportunity to work with these talented youth and future conservationist! We look forward to the next year of projects and continuing to take a pro-active, positive approach to watershed management.