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This project transforms the environment into a lab for outdoor learning and mentorship, echoing the life and philosophies of Walter Anderson, Mississippi’s celebrated visual artist. 

Students have hands-on experience with expert faculty in fields of art, science, history, leadership, and writing to support overall achievement in their public school careers.

“True art consists of spreading wide the  intervals so that imagination may fill the space between the trees.”

–Walter Inglis Anderson


This three-day camp from 9AM-3PM daily invites Delta public school students and their teachers in grades 8-10 to embark on adventures into public lands and on the Mississippi River. 

Activities include creative writing and art making, hiking, team-building, canoeing, and citizen science. Lessons will be co-created in collaboration with participating public school educators.

Day 1 - Who are you? Mississippi River Excursion 

(Led by the experts at Quapaw Canoe Company in Clarksdale)

Day 2 - Where are we? Geography, History and Place 

Day 3 - Where do we fit? Science, Writing, and the Biology of Storytelling

(Days 2 and 3 held at Tallahatchie Wildlife Refuge)

Each morning, shuttles will depart for the nature excursions at 8AM from one of two locations: Delta State University in Cleveland, MS or Quapaw Canoe Company in Clarksdale, MS. Participants within driving distance are encouraged to meet at either location of their choosing. Shuttles will return to the same locations, arriving at 4PM each afternoon. We encourage those who are joining us from outside of the Delta, and who require lodging, to contact Julian Rankin (info below) as soon as possible so that we can secure dormitory space at Delta State University. Those who are staying overnight will be able to check-in on Thursday afternoon at Delta State prior to the Friday morning program.

The standards-based curriculum is designed to:

  • Integrate art, science, social studies, creative writing, and STE(A)M education

  • Empower student confidence and achievement across subject area

  • Enhance education through mentorship

  • Provide CEU learning opportunities for teachers

Registration is full for this pilot program. 

Space Between the Trees faculty includes:


Robin Whitfield is an artist-naturalist who has been on the MS Arts Commission Teaching Artist Roster since 2006, an artist-in-residence for ArtPlace MS since 2002 and an Audubon Master Naturalist of MS since 2007. She has given creative workshops and exhibited her work widely across the state for the past 15 years. 

Nkrumah Frazier is a representative of "Outdoor Afro, Outdoor Nation," and is Sustainability Officer for the city of Hattiesburg, MS. Frazier was an animal keeper and zoo manager at the Hattiesburg Zoo when he earned his degree in biology from the University of Southern MS. He is on the leadership team of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America, which aims to protect wildlands from mining, drilling and climate disruption.

John Ruskey is an artist, adventure guide, and founder of Quapaw Canoe Company in Clarksdale, MS, which advocates for mentorship of young people and stewardship of the river. He was the first curator of the Delta Blues Museum (1991-1998), and is Co-founder and Director of the Delta Blues Education Fund (founded in 1992). His passion for nature finds expression in music, painting and writing. He has floated and written about many of the major rivers of North America, and his guided river excursions have introduced the waterways to hundreds of groups near and far, from public school students to Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown film crew.

Sponsored by

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quick facts


Public school students and educators in grades 8-10


A three-day adventure that uses nature to enhance educational experiences, student growth, and public education innovation. Activities such as creative writing and art making, hiking, team-building, canoeing, and citizen science illustrate connections between subject areas. Our team will share learnings from the program with the field to support scaling in other districts across the state and region.


Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 4-6, from 9AM-3PM daily


Mississippi Delta public lands, specifically Tallahatchie National Wildlife Refuge & the Mississippi River 


The systems that govern our lives, such as public education, are rooted in nature and the land. Large systems also demand perpetual innovation. This pilot program works with students and teachers to test ways that nature-based education can support achievement in the classroom.

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Do I need to know how to swim?

Knowing how to swim is not a prerequisite for paddling safely on the river or in other waterways. Each canoe or vessel will have a guide, and each paddler will wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. We do have rescue ropes, first aid kits, and necessary safety gear on board in case of emergency. 

Do I need to know about art?

Just like artist Walter Anderson (and Picasso, for that matter), we believe that all humans are inherently creative. This program unlocks the potential inside of each student, and whatever knowledge or passion one brings on the journey is all they'll need.

Do I need to be good at science, math or english?

This program builds upon any student's existing knowledge base through experiential lessons in nature. Students will learn new information, but more importantly, they will realize the connections in their own life between the things, places, and information that they already know.

How much does this cost?

The program is completely free to all who attend. Travel, meals, lodging (if needed), and all program fees are covered.

Who is paying for it?

This program is made possible through the generous support of The Phil Hardin Foundation, AT&T Mississippi, and the Mississippi Chapter of the Sierra Club.

What are COVID-19 protocols?

When indoors, staff and students will maintain social distancing and be required to wear masks. When outside, students will be encouraged to explore in socially-distanced settings and, when in groups outside, will be kept in small groups. For those who are lodging at Delta State University, each student or staff member will have a single room to themselves. 

How will students be supervised?

Faculty and educators will ensure compliance with COVID-19 and Safety Protocols, and ensure student comfort, safety, and discipline. All faculty and educators are trained in these areas, either through their employment as certified public school teachers or through expertise working with students in their respective fields.

Can students receive credit recovery? 

Often, programs such as these are perfect vehicles for students to receive extra credit or credit recovery through their schools and districts. Because the program is standards-based (more on that below), we encourage our participating students and educators to seek credit recovery through their school administrations. 

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While this list is not exhaustive, here are a few examples of the K-12 standards informing program development. Because we are partnering with teachers from across the region, additional standards will be incorporated into our tailored lessons.




National Science Standards (NGSS):


HS-ESS2-5 | Earth's Systems

Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes.


HS-ESS3-1 | Earth and Human Activity

Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.


HS-ESS3-4 | Earth and Human Activity

Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.


HS-LS2-8 | Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

Evaluate evidence for the role of group behavior on individual and species’ chances to survive and reproduce.


HS-LS4-5 | Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species.


HS-LS4-4 | Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations. 


Mississippi College-and-Career Readiness Standards

E.8.10 | Earth and Space Science

Students will demonstrate an understanding that a decrease in natural resources is directly related to the increase in human population on Earth and must be conserved.

E.8.9A.3 | Earth and Space Science

Map land and water patterns from various time periods and use rocks and fossils to report evidence of how Earth’s plates have moved great distances, collided, and spread apart.

BIO.5 | Biology

Students will Investigate and evaluate the interdependence of living organisms and their environment.

BIO.5.5 | Biology

Evaluate symbiotic relationships (e.g., mutualism, parasitism, and commensalism) and other coevolutionary (e.g., predator-prey, cooperation, competition, and mimicry) relationships within specific environments. 


8.SP.4 | Statistics and Probability

Understand that patterns of association can also be seen in bivariate categorical data by displaying frequencies and relative frequencies in a two-way table. Construct and interpret a two-way table summarizing data on two categorical variables collected from the same subjects. Use relative frequencies calculated for rows or columns to describe possible association between the two variables. For example, collect data from students in your class on whether or not they have a curfew on school nights and whether or not they have assigned chores at home. Is there evidence that those who have a curfew also tend to have chores?

(Mississippi College-and-Career Readiness Standards)


8.1 | U.S. History: Exploration to 1877

Examine major aspects of the development of the United States from Exploration to 1754. 

8.1.6. | U.S. History: Exploration to 1877

Describe the relationships between the various Native American and colonial groups.

8.8 | U.S. History: Exploration to 1877

Interpret the social and economic conflicts between the North and South that would eventually led to the American Civil War.

8.8.2. | U.S. History: Exploration to 1877

Trace the origins and development of slavery and its impact on the nation’s political, social, religious, economic, and cultural development. 

8.8.3. | U.S. History: Exploration to 1877

Analyze the impact of the cotton gin on all social classes and the importance of agriculture in antebellum Mississippi.

(Mississippi College-and-Career Readiness Standards)


W.9.3 | Writing

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

(Mississippi College-and-Career Readiness Standards)


VA: Cr2.2.I | Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.

Explain how traditional and non-traditional materials may impact human health and the environment and demonstrate safe handling of materials, tools, and equipment.

VA: Cn11.1.I | Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.

Describe how knowledge of culture, traditions, and history may influence personal responses to art.

(Mississippi College-and-Career Readiness Standards)


5. 1.  | Research a selected career path based on interests and program of study in a completed ISP (e.g., O*Net Online, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook).

  1. Determine the skills, education, and training that will be needed for this career/profession.

  2. Explore the technology used in this career/profession.

  3. Identify potential salary and employee benefits/compensations.

  4. Research current and future job availability for the chosen career path based on location.

  5. Determine the return on investment for the chosen career.

  6. Create a spreadsheet or flow chart showing the advancement of the chosen career path and track the cost of any additional education/certifications that could be required throughout this career or other related options.

(Mississippi College-and-Career Readiness Standards)


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