SO...without further ado...here is the missing post!
While the rest of the team drove straight to Branson; they arrived a day early and took in a light show at Branson Landing! They also went to see the amazing Jonah musical!
The whole group got together in Branson, Missouri with a stop at Silver Dollar City to enjoy a day of fun on the rides and watching the shows. Zach and Sean even braved the natural cave under the park!
We made it to the Stoney Creek Lodge for check in. It was so nice to meet the other youth and their leaders from around the nation. Everyone was so friendly! Those of us who could not stay tried to help and were then on our way to our own hotel. The first night was all about meeting people... the team did a great job of telling the others about the Lone Star State and spreading a little Texas joy to everyone!
The next day the team traveled around the area for an educational day about river style wetlands. They would later realize how different this is from the wetlands they had learned about for Texas as how to manage for habitat. In this station, the team learned about the dikes and canals along the Missouri River, also known as the Big Muddy. What an experience... The Missouri Turtle Project is where they "tag" the turtles by drilling holes in their shells using a special code and logging info about the turtle (health, age, date tagged), and they let the youth help! What a great experience!
After the talks, the team headed out on the Big Muddy for a river boat tour! It was so awesome to be out on the river and even explored off the shore for a short time. The group ended their educational fun day with a carp fish fry. A few of the youth decided to run around chasing a frisbee. A great way to continue to get to know the group and make life time friends!
The next day was all about the contest...the youth headed out to the site to determine the habitat needs for American Beaver, American Bullfrog, Mallard, Spotted Sandpiper, Raccoon and Large-Mouthed Bass.
Even though it was a lot of hard work, the youth managed to have fun during the breaks in between rotations.
Zaira kept herself busy... she "met" Winston Churchill... performed a concert in a reconstructed WWII church... wrote a letter to a soldier... and even took time to call and find out how the contest was going for the team!
The coaches had a fun day while the youth were at contest also. They were given a tour of Prairie Fork. They were shown the process of sorting seeds for planting native grasses, wild flowers to restore the prairies. They also visited with Pat Jones who originally started this conservation effort with her husband. She now has the assistance of others. There was a seed barn and a book about ways to manage the prairie (prep for prescribed burns, actually burns, etc.) Amber Edwards was a great educator! The Missouri Department of Conservation has three goals for Prairie Fork: prairie restoration, conservation education and research.
It was great to see all the top teams during the awards presentation. However, the best part of the night was seeing all the new friends who began exchanging photos and emails for contact later. The team also found out that they placed 8th over all in the nation! A great job for a young team. They were already talking about what they could do for next year to help the next group of youth.
Our family could not resist a few more stops at national parks. The rest of the team headed south to visit a museum in Springfield which had a display of the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as other historical documents! They also stopped at the large Bass Pro Shop in Springfield.
Once home, we told about our adventures. Sean got a great plan to pull out our large map of the United States. He placed all the trinkets from the share fair on the 16 states represented at the contest. Lots of great memories from an an amazing experience! We also took the time to thank our biggest sponsor (ServPro) at our club meeting, and Sean wrote a letter to the editor to follow up on the story that was in the paper to thank all of our sponsors.
A big thank you to the National WHEP committee and to all who worked so hard to make a great experience at contest! We are especially thankful to Mr. Hysmith for his encouragement and experience shared