John Bunker Sands Wetland Centre
Funding support: Non profit- private donations, program & entrance fees, grants
Number of staff: 5
Number of visitors per year: 3000 students and 2000 adults
Overall aims of the centre
Our mission is to educate the public and provide research opportunities in the areas of water quality and supply, wildlife management and wetland systems.
Description of the centre
The John Bunker Sands Wetland Center located in the middle of a 2000 acre constructed wetland, is the educational arm of the East Fork Wetland Project that provides over 50 millions of gallons of water a day to a regional municipal water district serving a large portion of fast-growing North Central Texas. The wetland project pulls treated wastewater off the river, filters it through the wetland by removing sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorous, then pumps it back to the reservoir of origin, providing water for 1.6 million people. The original geography of the land was bottomland hardwood forest. A portion of the hardwood forest still remains, with an interpreted trail down to the river. We are in a rural county, away from larger city conveniences. We are a unique partnership of a wetland center, wetland mitigation bank, major water district and working cattle ranch.
Our 5,400 square foot facility includes an exhibit and gallery hall, a research/education lab, a classroom for educational programs and an obseration deck to view the wetland. We serve approximately 5000 visitors a year, a majority of them being students.
Main CEPA work areas
Our core age groups for educational programming are 4th – 12 grade, specializing in middle and high school level students. Programs include Wetland Ecology, Bird Adaptations, Wetland Plant Ecology, Water Conservation and Wildlife Management. Home school: Students ages 5 – 13 meet one day a month for a two-hour class covering a wetland topic.
Regular weekend programming: We offer programs every first and third Saturday to the public. Our activities include guided nature walks, bird walks and a children’s story time. Seminars/workshops: These three-hour programs cover topics such as butterflies of Texas or beekeeping.
Adult training/citizen science: In these daylong workshops, participants learn information they can take away with them and use to further environmental causes and activities, such as mussel-watch training and amphibian ID.
Educator training: School and informal educators attend various workshops learning pedagogy of the wetland at such offerings as our three-day Wetland Environmental Academy
Community Outreach: Participation in large community festivals with interpretative booths, interactive exhibits and conservation awareness. Public speaking engagements to over 13 cities in our region that receive water from the East Fork Wetland Project.
Top three successes
1. Education Programs: Finding our niche in the High School field study market. We are the only Center in our area that offers programming specifically for high school students, We have aligned our high school curriculum to testing standards to draw teachers to the Center. When students come to the Center their focus is on one of our program topics. The scientific method is used in all of programs, students observe, collect, analyze and draw conclusions for their work – a skill many students need help with.
2. Fundraising. We have formed partnerships with many organizations that spread the word about the uniqueness of the wetland project.
3. Research with local universities. Being a fairly new constructed wetland, there are many questions to be answered regarding the efficiency of the wetland, the animal species moving in and water supply for the wetland.
Top three challenges
1. Educating people about the lack of water globally is very challenging in Texas. North Texas is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, however the future of the water supply is still being discussed.
2. Raising awareness of out Wetland Center to the 1.7 million people in our region.
3. Sustaining financial resources though earned income
Creating signage; site information; Producing written materials; Using audio-visual tools; Developing nature trails
Setting up a new visitor centre; Managing / creating habitat; Running a visitor centre; Building / maintaining structures
Engaging young people; Engaging the local community; Working with volunteers
Education and communication
Delivering adult education; Working with primary schools; Lobbying / running campaigns; Working with secondary schools; Developing resources / materials
Auditing / assessing effectiveness; Running effective administration; Fund-raising