Twenty-four area teachers visited the Dale Bumpers Small Farm Research center recently. A part of the summer professional development each teacher is required by the Arkansas Department of Education, the tour allowed teachers to see actual science research and participate in data collection and interpretation. The Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center was established by the Department of Agriculture in 1980 to conduct research and to develop innovative strategies and technologies for small to medium sized farms to remain profitable while at the same time maintaining environmental quality. The farm employs around thirty people who are active in conducting research into areas as diverse as agri-forestry to control of animal parasites. Research at the center is shared with farmers and scientists around the world.
Dr. Joan Burke shared her research on sheep parasites with the teacher group. Blood and waste samples were collected from the sheep and later analyzed in the laboratory maintained on the grounds of the research center. Dr. Dan Pote and Dr. Phillips shared research on soils, water, and the latest technology utilized by farmers. Teachers were allowed rides on GPS remote controlled tractors and visited the greenhouse to observe effects of run-off and nutrient depletion on plant growth. Jackie Cherry, who along with Dr. Curtis Varnell of the Guy Fenter coop organized the visit, then allowed teachers to analyze sheep blood samples through coagulation and the use of the centrifuge to examine the samples. Teachers also examined samples of parasites through microscopes and investigated the great variety of parasites. The trip proved a great training experience for the teachers as they learned real world practices that they can incorporate directly into teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Many of the activities incorporated data collection, graphing, and statistics; all skills utilized by students in learning and also in the Aspire evaluation process required of schools. Twenty-four teachers from ten different schools attended the workshop. Area teachers included Ty Varnell and Dana Halmes of Paris, Eileen Freeman of St. Joseph’s, Garnetta Bonner, Amber Cobb, and Georgia Littleton of Booneville.