Matt Duzan has two classrooms he works in as an instructor at the OTC Richwood Valley Campus. The first one is filled with traditional desks, chairs, lab equipment and wall cabinets.
The second has a bubbling creek running through it, a canopy of lush trees and blue skies serving as the ceiling, and a wide variety of birds, bugs and plants waiting to be examined.
Welcome to the study of environmental science, OTC style.
Duzan makes use of the natural settings around the Christian County campus to teach his students about the ecosystems that are right outside the campus doors.
“I try to liken the campus as my lab. Because of the nature of the course, I try and incorporate the various ecosystems found on the Richwood Valley campus. The students seem to enjoy it. I try to get them outside as much as possible,” Duzan said.
One class can involve studying the water quality of the creek that feeds the nearby Finley River by collecting insects and crustaceans from the water.
Another session might focus on plant populations and soil types around the campus.
Field observations are conducted of birds that stay on campus.
The trail that encircles the campus is used as a path for students to travel in identifying the trees that are on campus.
“Getting out into the creek or the woods changes the dynamic of the class,” Duzan said.
Students appreciate the chance to get out of the classroom to perform hands-on tasks as part of their studies.
“It helps me understand what’s being said. I’m more of a hands-on person when it comes to remembering things,” said Robby Johnson of Nixa.
Mike Fox, another Nixa student, said Duzan’s approach helps keep the class exciting.
“Going outside helps reinforce the lectures by seeing it for real,” he said.
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