Prairie Grove Middle School students work on Muddy Fork erosion
PRAIRIE GROVE — Muddy Fork Branch of the Illinois River runs through part of the city and a group of seventhand eighth-graders from Prairie Grove Middle School hope to improve its water quality and protect the land along its banks.
“We are hoping to achieve pure drinking water and fix any erosion problems so it will have the best water quality,” said seventh-grader Luke Stuck.
The middle school’s Environmental and Spatial Technology class received a $10,000 Beyond the Bell grant from the EAST Initiative and Arkansas Department of Education for its project called “A River Runs Through it: Preserving the Water Quality and Protecting the Land along the Muddy Fork River.”
The grant program is called Beyond the Bell because students and sponsors aren’t allowed to work on the project during school hours.
During the course of the project, students will be involved in lots of research and hands-on activities, according to Tracie Ashley, class facilitator.
They will take water samples to identify water and soil contaminants, clean the river of debris, kayak the river to find areas of erosion and determine actions to prevent and decrease erosion along the bank of the river.
The students, called the Stream Team, will use the grant money to buy a drone to see an overview of the river, a GoPro camera to use while kayaking and other issues along the river and a videocamera. The grant requires students to create a documentary video about the project.
A key part of the grant is working with community partners. In this case, community partners include Illinois River Watershed Partnership, U.S. Geological Survey, Prairie Grove, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, Army Corps of Engineers and Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies with the University of Arkansas.
Students already have met with some partners.
They attended a training session earlier this year with the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies to look at erosion rates along the Muddy Fork.