Conservation field day sparks stewardship in New York

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By Caitlin Stewart

Earlier this fall, the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District (HCSWCD) in upstate New York hosted its 38th annual Lynn Galusha Memorial Conservation Field Day to encourage fifth and sixth graders to become the future stewards of our natural resources.

The event drew 72 area students from Lake Pleasant, Wells, Long Lake, Inlet, and Wheelerville schools to the HCSWCD office on a beautiful September day. Groups of students hiked the Adirondack Ecotrail to six stations, where they discovered the importance of natural resource conservation.

Dean Nervik of Suncatcher Homestead (pictured) discussed the benefits of renewable energy and demonstrated how a solar oven can be used to bake cookies. At the “Big Bad Wolf” station, Christine Campeau of the Adirondack Experience highlighted wolf extirpation, complete with a taxidermied model.

Invasive species identification and harmful impacts were reviewed by Zachary Simek of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program. Students also learned the importance of leaving no trace and backcountry safety with Dave Kallen and John Ploss of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The interactive field day also included the “Incredible Journey” game thanks to Jackie Howard and Jeff Sann of Adirondack Watershed Institute. Together, the students rolled a cube, moving among soil, plants, rivers, clouds, oceans, lakes, animals, ground water, and glaciers to learn how ecosystems interact.

Kids got their hands dirty with Tom Bielli of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, who showcased soil health. The day concluded with a final presentation from DEC Officer Matthew LaCroix and his service dog Diesel who displayed obedience commands, tracking techniques, and object location.

“My students learned a great deal and really enjoyed their time at the District,” said Shannon Enders, a fifth grade teacher from Wheelerville Union Free School.

Throughout the field day, students took notes to reference as they develop entries for the fifth grade poster contest and the sixth grade essay contest. Students choose which presentation topics they felt would be most helpful to conserving Hamilton County’s natural resources.

“As these fifth and sixth graders mature into young adults who take on leadership roles, I am confident that our natural resources are in good hands,” said District Conservation Educator Caitlin Stewart. “I look forward to seeing the ideas of these bright young minds reflected in their essays and posters.”

For video and photos from this year’s event, visit the HCSWCD website.

Caitlin Stewart is a conservation educator for the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District in New York state.

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