Award-winning educational partnership celebrates 20 years

For 20 years, a collaboration between Victoria ISD and the INVISTA Victoria, Texas, manufacturing site has allowed students to see science and nature from a unique perspective. The partnership began in 1998 with the creation of an outdoor environmental classroom at INVISTA's 53-acre wetland.

While in the wetland, students participate in a Wetland Environmental Science Education Encounter (WE SEE), where they take part in hands-on lessons utilizing every aspect of the water, soil, plants, and animals in the wetland environment. Texas curriculum standards require that each student receive 40% of their science instruction through laboratory experiences. Encounters at the wetland correlate to the standards including soil dynamics, microbiology, water chemistry, zoology, entomology, and ichthyology.

“We’re proud of our long-standing partnership with the VISD and the hands-on learning environment provided to our community by the INVISTA Wetland,” said Vince Salvador, INVISTA Victoria site manager. “This project underscores INVISTA’s commitment to environmental excellence and has helped share the value of environmental education with thousands of area students during the last 20 years.”

Wetland Educator John Snyder develops and presents the WE SEE program to students in 4th-12th grades. His program has received awards from the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) (the predecessor agency to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality – TCEQ) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF). He also shares his curriculum nationally and internationally with municipalities and industry leaders.

The curriculum is tailored to individual teacher needs in order to assist them in meeting the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards for their students, including the 40% hands-on requirement. Prior to each class' visit to the center, teachers identify and document the specific TEKS elements they wish to accomplish when their students visit the wetland. Mr. Snyder develops the appropriate investigations for the TEKS requirements for their specific grade level. The wetland provides an entire ecosystem that is rich in diversity and concentration of species.

Biologists, birders and environmental consultants recently identified more than 207 species of birds, 65 species of water dwelling, or hydrophilic plants, eight species of trees and 17 species of shrubs in the wetland. Students come to smell the flowers, but it doesn't stop there. They also look at the flowers’ pollen through a microscope, identify the plant species, collect and press the leaves, identify adaptations to a wetland habitat, and view cell structures that make up the plant.

Since the first student group visited the Education Center in October 1998, Mr. Snyder has conducted programs for more than 70,000 students and teachers from the local and regional school districts.

“We are happy to celebrate this great long-term partnership with INVISTA,” said VISD Superintendent, Dr. Quintin Shepherd. “Students have benefited, educators have benefited, and our community has benefited as we learn to appreciate and respect the natural resources in our region together.” 

The primary water source is the water stream from INVISTA's state-of-the-art above ground biological treatment system. Prior to entering the wetland, the water stream is designed to meet the state and federal requirements for surface water discharge. The wetland provides an additional, natural water-polishing step before the water discharges into the Guadalupe River. The wetland was developed, designed and built with input and guidance from the site's Wetland Advisory Team consisting of engineers, scientists, wetland experts and wildlife specialists, as well as local community members.

For 20 years, the wetland has brought business objectives, environmental stewardship and education together. This collaborative effort will continue to enrich students' education for decades to come.

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