The Environmental Education Association of Indiana (EEAI) presented the Joe Wright Recognition of Excellence Award to Battle Ground Elementary School teachers Jolene Freeman and Diane Lehman for establishing the River WRATS (Wabash Rafting with Adventurous Tomahawk Scientists) program. The organization cited the project as one that provides excellent, impactful environmental education opportunities for students.
The annual rafting trip is a capstone experience for all the outdoor education provided by Tippecanoe County Naturalist Mary Cutler. While paddling six miles of the Wabash River, students review concepts of the ecosystem, engage the fifth grade students in various activities including water quality testing and designing and testing an erosion control plan to keep pollutants out of waterways.
Cutler says the Battle Ground River WRATS program is a model of what a stellar environmental education program can become.
“A lot of blood, sweat, tears and worry over the course of a year’s worth of planning resulted in our ability to step up to the river bank in August of 2017 for the inaugural launch of rafts for three days taking 5 classes of students down the river,” says Cutler. “Students, parents and volunteers all expressed amazement at the surprising returning health of our state river, seen from a vantage point none had ever experienced before. Since that time, the program has continued to be improved as the dynamic duo, Jolene and Diane, never rest on their laurels, but always work to raise the educational bar for their students.”
The award was presented to Freeman and Lehman during the annual EEAI fall conference.