ByAmanda McBride The Choctaw Plaindealer
Fourth graders in the Choctaw County School District recently enjoyed a ‘delayed’ 4th Annual Arbor Day celebration with the Red Hills Mine and the Choctaw County Soil and Water Conservation District. The students created posters for the “Spoil to Spoon” contest where they were encouraged to show where food comes from and how it gets from the soil to the table. Before creating their posters, the students learned about the USDA’s “My Plate” food categories and traced each food group back to the soil. Judy Briggs, with the Choctaw County SWCD, also taught the fourth graders about gardening and the importance of the soil for our food and to the farmers. On April 20, fourth graders visited the Red Hills Mine in Ackerman to find out who the contest winners are, learn how to plant trees and toured the coal mine. Winners at French Camp Elementary are Reese McIntire, first place and overall, Amy Winter, second place, and Brianna Grice, third place. Mrs. McKnight also won an award for having 100 percent participation (overall). Winners at Ackerman Elementary School are Macy Claire Cagle, first place, Claudia Cade, second place and Regan Stevenson, third place. Weir Elementary winners are Takiya Mandaujano, first place, Raheem Taylor, second place and Ridge Weeks, third place. The Red Hills Mine provided prizes to the winning poster participants. The overall poster contest winner, Reese McIntire, had her poster sent to the State Soil and Water Conservation Commission where it will be judged. If the poster wins at the state level, it is then presented to the National Association of Conservation Districts. After announcing the poster contest winners, students learned how to plant trees from Jerry Orr, with the Choctaw County SWCD, then they joined the Red Hills staff in planting trees in the reclamation area at the coal mine. The students planted a mixture of hardwoods and bald cypress trees. “We always welcome the students to our facility so they may learn about the mining and reclamation processes. They learn the vital functions that trees serve in our environment and get to see the reforestation efforts here on the Mine site,” said Mike Thomas, Manager of Land, Government and Public Affairs, for the Red Hills Mine. “We take our responsibility to be good stewards of the land very seriously and follow all “best management practices” in tree planting and maintenance.” Rebecca McGrew, Environmental Manager at the Red Hills Mine, added, “Red Hills typically plants an average of 80,000 pine trees and 30,000 hardwood trees annually into reclaimed soils.” Finally the fourth graders were taken on a tour of the Red Hills Mine where they learned about the mining process and equipment used to mine the coal. SOIL TO SPOON contest The poster contest was sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts and the NACD Auxiliary. NACD, founded in 1946, is a nonprofit organization representing nearly 3,000 local conservation districts in the 50 states and U.S. Territories. The NACD Auxiliary assists NACD with information and educational outreach efforts. The Choctaw County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Red Hills Mine co-sponsored the local poster contest.