December 5, 2013
By James Woods
HEBER SPRINGS, Ark. - How do you get students interested in the 50th anniversary of the Greers Ferry Dam dedication? Include information about the area and the dam in their daily school curriculum.
The Little Rock District held the dedication ceremony Oct. 3 at the John F. Kennedy Overlook near the dam.
About 6,000 people attended the event to hear former President Bill Clinton and Gov. Mike Beebe speak about the dam's value to the nation.
Out of 6,000, some 2,900 in attendance that day were students from 17 North Central Arkansas school districts.
Inviting students from local school districts was talked about last year during the event planning committee meetings. The planning committee decided to make dam education a focal point throughout the school year leading up to the ceremony.
"I asked the summer rangers, who were teachers and school administrators, how do I get the schools involved in this event," said Joe Harper, Greers Ferry Lake chief ranger. "After a short discussion with the group, we decided our best efforts would be developing lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school teachers to incorporate the event into the classroom."
The teachers developed lesson plans for grades three through 12, which included modules on science, technology, engineering, math, English, art and history. STEM education plays a major role in enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace.
"Using these lesson plans was a great idea," said Russell Hester, Heber Springs School District superintendent. "Mr. Harper gave the teachers plenty of time to put them together."
For some of the students, this may have been the first time they were learning about the history of the lake and dam, but for the older students, the lessons being taught may have reinforced what they already knew.
"Some of the older students' parents and grandparents were around when the dam was built, so they may have better understood the importance of the ceremony," Hester said.
The high school lesson plans required students to research different aspects of the dam's functions.
One example would be: the Greers Ferry Dam was originally built for flood control hydro-electric power, and municipal water supply. An extra benefit of that plan was the authorization by Congress to build recreation areas around the reservoir created by the dam.
Students were assigned the task to compare and contrast the original purpose for the dam vs. parks and tourism.
Seeing the students looking at the displays set up at the ceremony site and listening intently to the guest speakers, it was apparent the lesson plans worked.