Many people who live in Northeast Arkansas visit Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center to learn and interact with local wildlife, but sustaining this habitat is a task that never ends.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission spends hundreds of dollars every year buying new habitats and hideouts for animals to move into. However, EAST students at International Studies Magnet School in Jonesboro realized that they could help the center turn their investments elsewhere.
To do this, the team of Caden Byrd, Ryder Mashburn, and Rayleigh Reid modeled several 3D designs for hideouts to provide animals like bullfrogs and turtles shelter in their habitats, as well as a design to make feeding the animals easier.
“We wanted to help out because we knew they didn’t really have the money to keep printing new habitats for the animals,” Ryder said. “With our help, we hope they can spend money on more upgrades instead of buying new habitats.”
The students started small by creating “The Ring of Food.” The design is a simple, small circle shape that floats on the water and keeps fish food in one designated area to prevent wasting food.
“It’s hollow on the inside, so it’ll float,” Carman Owens, the facilitator at International Studies Magnet School, said. “It prevents the food from going into all of the crevices and corners in the tank.”
The flagship design of the project is the “Turtle Hideout,” which is a nest designed for snakes in the habitat. The students initially created a complex model with decorations to make the hideout more aesthetically pleasing, but the intricate designs created too many issues with upkeep.
“We wanted to make it blend in more with the environment, but it would have been impossible to clean,” Caden said. “So we simplified the design and made our final hideout for Bull Frogs using what we learned from the Turtle Hideout.”
Cody Walker, the Education Specialist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, worked with the EAST students on this project and was impressed with their work ethic and perseverance.
“You could see their gears turning from start to finish with this, and that's the great thing about these types of projects/relationships,” Walker said. “It gives these kids real work experience of coming up with an idea and seeing it through to the end. It teaches them to work with others and see how an idea turns into something real, with all the bumps along the way.”
Caden and Ryder said that the Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center had to spend $30-50 for each new hideout they would purchase beforehand, but now if they need a new habitat for their animals, they know who to call.