FFA members give assist to Mississippi River visitor center

Everyday, we’re more and more impressed with FFA members. They’re a group of individuals routinely doing positive things for their future, and most of the time helping their local and global communities in the process. The latest example — a completely true fish story, nonetheless — flows to us (pun intended) straight from the Benton FFA Chapter in Benton, Pennsylvania.

We’ll let the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers take it from here.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – Fish now adorn the walls of the Mississippi River Visitor Center located on Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island, Ill., near Locks and Dam 15.

The fish were built by members of the Benton FFA Chapter in Benton, Penn., as part of a partnership with the Visitor Center.

The partnership was formed as a way for students to use the skills they were learning in the classroom and apply them to a real-life project. Part of the FFA program is agricultural education where students take classes to help prepare them for successful careers in areas such as global agriculture, food, fiber and natural resources.

The students researched the 15 most common fish species in the Mississippi River for the project. They learned about their anatomy, feeding habits and habitat. They then started making plans for the display and building the fish.

Those model fish (built by model FFA members, no less) now cover the walls of the Mississippi River Visitor Center and stand as a solid project that intertwined learning about river aquaculture life plus tangible skills in a shop class. The Benton FFA chapter advisor made sure the project was more than just labor.

“As they were building, I would quiz them on each species to ensure they had all the fins and features,” said Doug McCracken. “It was a great project, something the students will be proud of for a long time.”

If you’re wondering how an FFA chapter in Pennsylvania got involved with a Mississippi river project in Illinois, the story is simple. McCracken, the FFA chapter advisor and agriculture teach, is the brother of LouAnn McCracken, a natural resources specialist on the Mississippi River Project.

The FFA members are hopeful they can make a trip to the visitor center in Rock Island sometime this fall to check out their work that is now proudly displayed in the main exhibit space of the venue celebrating the river the takes water from parts of 31 states. In all, the Mississippi River Project manages 314 miles of the Mississippi River that includes 16 campgrounds, 22 boat ramps and 55,000 acres of forested land. Good work, Benton FFA!

(Thanks to the Rock Island District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for passing along this information!)

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