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Local children become aware of environmental issues

  • Published
  • By Debi Smith
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
A scheduling conflict could have prevented local children from missing out on the annual recognition of Earth Day. But two Sheppard AFB civilians from the 82nd Civil Engineer Squadron teamed up with other agencies to make the event happen a week early.

Tim Hunter, a base agronomist, and Rick Milhollon, 82nd CES Environmental Flight chief, partnered with the Wichita County Extension Office and the Non-Profit Management Center April 14 providing displays at the Multi-Purpose Events Center. Elementary school students are scheduled to take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test April 22.

Nine booths were set up to educate children on the local environment, including topics such as wildlife, plants, soil and water.

"The bugs were nasty, but the exhibit was really interesting," said Janet Villegas, Scotland Park Elementary School sixth grader. "This teaches us a lot about our world and that it's important for us to take care of it and keep it really clean."

Janet said she could easily recognize some of the monarch butterflies and spiders from her own back yard.

The collection of insects, spiders, tarantulas, scorpions, centipedes, wasp nests, moths, butterflies and brown recluses come from Mr. Hunter's personal collection. The collection spans a 30-year passion of finding the best "critters" in nature.

Mr. Milhollon handed out pencils, made from recycled rubber tires, while educating students that paper, cans, cardboard, bottles, plastic and computer cartridges are all recyclable. Excited "oohs" and "aahs" rose as hesitant hands delved into buckets of recycled bottles crushed into various stages of sand. The crushed bottles are then used for yard and road filler or decorative landscape material.

"The next generation needs these kinds of programs so they can be aware and solve some of the landfill and recycling issues created in our environment now," he said. "They need to be educated that they can make a difference. They can leave here and start a class recycling program."

In addition to Sheppard's portion of the event, children listened intently at the parks and wildlife table showcasing finds from Lake Arrowhead State Park. Owl feathers, turtle shells, skulls, eagle and hawk talons were gently handled while the fur from two foxes were fondly stroked by eager, young hands. Not only did they get to touch nature's bounty from the park but a taxidermist's professional work gave them the unique chance to see what a fox in the wild really looks and feels like.

The Boy Scouts' display included skulls, antlers, bobcat and beaver pelts and turtle shells.

Keep Wichita Falls Beautiful displayed a gingerbread house and train made of natural materials and put on an interactive puppet show while the Red River Authority presented a video on how important water is to the planet and how it gets from the earth's underground aquifers to the treatment plants to the kitchen sink. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service of Vernon and Wichita County put on a soil and water conservation display.

Children learned a little history at the plant and vegetable table. Trivia included the use of the bluebonnet flower by pioneers as a dye for clothing, rosemary as a remembrance plant used at pioneer funerals, and that thyme can act as a bug repellent when burned outside.

The River Bend Nature Center, in partnership with Be Clean and Green Wichita Falls, presents a free Earth Day celebration April 18 from 1-4 p.m. Events include live music, seminars, ecology tours, puppet shows, storytelling, nature photography exhibition and a host of demonstrations and hands-on activities for children of all ages. 

Nationwide events and information is also available at