From its inception and at the insistence of both the donor families and the college, Project REACH was designed to provide educational benefits. This purpose has remained at the center of all we have done: students in many classes have already engaged in REACH-related activities. Many of these and other groups of students are involved in REACH-related activities.
The process of discovery includes learning about Aunt Zella, or Ozella Upshaw, who was the great-granddaughter of both Reuben Rice and Rhoda Looney. Best described as a Renaissance woman, she is known to us by virtue of the pieces of her poetry, her art, and her music passed on to us by family members. Clips of our choral music students working on an original music score and lyrics written by Aunt Zella.
From the beginning, art students have engaged with REACH. The image of sketches of the structure before restoration, and later sketching the restored structure. They have also been involved in a special project to paint replica pieces of pottery, replicating the pattern on the pottery shards, which you will see in the video clip of the students of former BRTC professor Dr. Sandy Baltz.
Also engaged in this project from its inception are the Science students of a former BRTC professor. Under her guidance, they have performed chemical analysis, putting their classroom skills to work. They have also had opportunity to take field trips to the state‟s dendrochronology, or tree-ring dating lab, and to the Arkansas Archeological Survey, where they could observe at work the very professionals who had participated in REACH during the investigation phase.
REACH is clearly first and foremost an educational setting for people of all ages. It includes educational opportunities for our own staff, and the number of those who want to be involved grows each year. We have hosted numerous college and university staff from other institutions, from museums and archives, and from area public schools. BRTC has sponsored an educators’ in-service session on early Arkansas history for approximately 75 local public school teachers. These teachers were eager to bring their students to the sites once public visitation was possible.
REACH is thus an evolving and rich venue to engage students in authentic learning. While not typically the purview of two-year colleges, such endeavors can bring immense and valuable learning opportunities, engaging students and their teachers by allowing them to make the connections between theory and reality, between their skills and authentic problems and needs.