Students get ‘dirty for the environment’ | news – Advice Eating

VERNON TOWNSHIP — A group of Cochranton junior-senior high seniors spent their Wednesday “polluting the environment,” as one of the students put it.

“I think it’s a very exciting experience – I get to experience nature,” added Joei Lipscomb, one of about 15 students who spent the day in the field. “Whatever I can do to give back, I could. I like volunteering.”

The students are members of an ecology class led by Cochranton teachers Susie Baker and Tyler Chrispen. After last week’s classroom discussion of restoring riparian zones — the transition areas from land to water that run along rivers and streams — the students picked up shovels and participated in restoring one such zone at the Helen B. Katz Natural area.

Roughly pie-shaped and sandwiched between Interstate 79 to the east, Route 98 to the west, and Rogers Ferry Road to the north, the Katz Natural Area is a 1,200-acre property owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and open to the public for hunting. Fishing, bird watching and other activities.

Cussewago Creek meanders through the eastern portion of the property before crossing under the interstate. Closer to Route 98, on the western portion of the property, approximately 35 acres of former agricultural fields are being gradually reverted to forests.

The students were there to speed up the process and put what they learned in class into practice.

“We have a lot of hands-on students at our school who like this type of thing and like to get outside,” Chrispen said as the students staked the narrow plastic tubes that had been placed over each seedling to protect them from deer and rabbits. “As an ecology class, we try to get them out as much as possible.”

Much of that work happens right outside of the high school in Little Sugar Creek, Chrispen said, and in other ways they bring the outside world into the classroom: In addition to participating in trout stocking efforts by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission in recent weeks, students are hauling theirs are raising their own trout in the classroom and will be releasing them into the stream early next month.

In addition to the practical benefits of having first-hand experience with the subject matter, Baker says students also have an impact on contributing to a larger project like the Katz Tree Planting Campaign.

“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to get involved and be proud of their community,” she said.

All of that, and the students had a good time too.

“It was actually really cool,” said Max Adams, who admitted that his initial attraction to the field trip had more to do with being able to get off campus for the day with a few other seniors than with a curiosity about planting trees . “It was fun learning the right approach.”

Classmates Logan Danielson and Colby Freyermuth agreed that experiencing something different than the usual school day added to both the fun and impact of the trip.

“We learned how easy it is — if you plan just one wrong step, it can ruin the growth of the entire tree,” Freyermuth said, “so just take your time with it, make sure everything is the way.” you want it.”

“It’s going to be pretty cool to see when they’re fully grown,” Danielson added.

The payout is not immediate. The seedlings that become saplings should be past the tops of their shelters in about five or six years, according to Mark Lewis, a ranger with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry who helped guide the students through the tree planting process. By about 2040, trees are projected to be about 12 to 15 feet tall.

“So until some of these kids have kids of their own old enough to plant…” Lewis mused, laughing.

The seedlings planted on Wednesday bring the total number of seedlings planted in recent weeks by students at junior-senior high schools in Cochranton, Maplewood and Cambridge Springs to about 600, Lewis said. The species selected are all native to the area and thought to thrive in adapted to wetlands.

“So they like to get their feet wet,” Lewis said of the planted swamp white oak, red maple, silver maple, black chokeberry, gray dogwood, silky dogwood, and serviceberry.

As the day drew to a close, Lewis, Baker, Chrispen and other officials involved in the effort gathered with the students. They stood in a partially grassy and partially muddy area between the rows of plastic pipes and an unnamed tributary of Cussewago Creek. The tiny creek, ankle-deep in most places and narrow enough for an adult to cross without risking unfortunate consequences, rippled and bubbled more than normal due to the recent rains.

In the distance in every direction were green hills covered with tens of thousands of trees – a sight that made it easy to wonder if 600 more would really make a difference?

Having led such planting efforts for more than 20 years, Lewis is thinking long-term.

“While the 600 may not make a difference here, the few hundred thousand that we’ve invested over the years has certainly made a difference,” he said.

Lewis looked at the rushing water nearby and corrected himself.

“The effort these guys are making is a small part of a much bigger effort,” he said. “It’s pretty exhausting to see when you start putting all of this together.

“It will certainly make a big difference in terms of river and water health here,” he added.

Leave a Comment