Texas A&M University-Texarkana and the City of Texarkana, Texas, today officially opened an educational pavilion at Spring Lake Park that will provide students in the region with experiential learning opportunities in environmental education.
Students in Maximina Olalde’s second-grade class at Highland Park Elementary School were on hand for the ceremony, along with students, faculty and staff from Texas A&M University-Texarkana and officials from the cities of Texarkana, Texas, Texarkana, Arkansas, the Texarkana USA Chamber of Commerce and local school districts.
Funded in part by a grant from the Horace C. Cabe Foundation and Friends of Texarkana Parks, the e3 Pavilion, which is located near James Bramlett Field at 4303 North Park Rd., is available to schools in the region, as well as the general public.
Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony, junior-level pre-service teachers in the Methods for Science, Math, Health and PE class at A&M-Texarkana conducted environmental education activities with the elementary school students.
“e3 stands for experiential, environmental and education,” explained Debora Shidemantle, instructor of education at A&M-Texarkana, who developed the project along with Dr. Katie Stoddard, assistant professor of environmental science. “Our goal is to provide opportunities for teachers in the area to take their students out of the classroom for environmental education.”
City of Texarkana, Texas, Parks and Recreation Director Robby Robertson recognizes the completion of this project as a benefit for the community as a whole.
“We are always looking for ways to make our parks better and add new opportunities to learn and enjoy the outdoors,” Robertson said. “This partnership has been a win-win for everyone.”
“The educational displays included in the center are designed to meet Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards, but they are accessible and informative enough to be valuable to folks who are walking by,” said Dr. Bill McHenry, dean of Graduate Studies and Research at A&M-Texarkana. “Our hope is that this pavilion is just the first of several projects like this in the area.”
Dr. McHenry expressed appreciation to Robby Robertson, director of the City of Texarkana, Texas, Parks and Recreation Department, as well as Ross Cowling, parks and recreation superintendent for Texarkana, Arkansas; Nichole Smith, teacher in the Texarkana Independent School District; Coach Mason McCloud with the Texarkana Arkansas School District; and others who helped design and develop the proposal.
Ms. Shidemantle also thanked the Agriculture Department at Hooks Independent School District for providing plants for the project.
“The pavilion is an excellent example of the university’s commitment to and focus on community engagement,” Dr. Emily Cutrer, president of A&M-Texarkana, said. “The university is at the center of a thriving metropolitan region, and our goal is to be a catalyst for learning, engaged research and community service.”