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1 July 2005

Field School Construction: The Public Can Help


Sherry Kughn
News Bureau

The blueprints for the Little River Canyon Field School are almost completed and its advisory board will begin thinking about construction funds. Board members recently examined the blueprints for a rustic stone and wood facility that will also house offices for the National Park Service.

Those who have worked to develop this facility — including several JSU faculty and staff members, officials with the National Park Service and the DeKalb County Tourism Association, and many community leaders — are pleased that the project has come this far.

The facility will attract tourists, students and others who want to know more about the rich fauna and flora of Little River Canyon area and life at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. The facility will also provide a showcase for musicians, artists, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Pete Conroy, director of the Environmental Policy and Information Center and the JSU Field Schools, hopes the public will help by getting involved.

"While JSU has been very fortunate in having Congress appropriate funds for construction," he said, "we have many needs that will require additional assistance through private means."

Conroy displayed an artist rendition of the building front which features the rustic materials with a front patio pond feature and bog typical to the area. The front lobby has 20-foot ceilings and a double-sided fireplace. Inside the lobby will be a welcome center and restrooms. Visitors will follow a route through the building that takes them into an auditorium with a video describing the field school, the prehistory, history, and natural history of the area. From there, visitors will tour an exhibit hall and an education shop. Classrooms are on one side of the facility and offices on the other.

"To connect our visitors to the environment, the facility will have a large terrace, with a nice view out back. It'll be a starting point for hiking trails and the trails that lead to our outdoor classrooms," said Dr. Kelly Gregg, a JSU professor of geography and member of the advisory board.

"We're going to bring K-12 groups there and establish learning stations," said Renee Morrison, coordinator of JSU field schools and a member of the advisory board. "Outside the building will be a native American rock shelter, a site for archeology and anthropology students, and a water quality site where students will compare water samples and discuss water cycles."

In addition there will be an outdoor classroom station with native live animals and a station where students can learn about rocks and soil. Those affiliated with the project almost glow when they speak of the future. One of those is Dr. Frank Romano, head of the biology department at JSU.

"I'm looking forward to teaching classes at the JSU Little River facility," he said. "Maybe we'll do week-long classes on aquatic entomology and ecology. We'll study, and then go to the creek, which will literally be in our back yard. Our classrooms will be indoors and out, definitely a great living laboratory," he said.

Conroy believes the Little River Canyon project will be unique in supporting the interest of both a university and a national park. He said, "While the National Park Service is JSU's primary partner, we have developed dozens of important relationships that make the construction of this facility possible. This project is all about partnerships."

Conroy said everyone involved had dreamed about the field school for years and are eager to build. "I guess all good things are worth waiting for, but we're all tired of that, and now we are just ready to get started."

Those interested in donating funds for the field school should contact Pete Conroy at 256-782-8010. For more information, log onto

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