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Yough students learn lessons in the great outdoors

| Saturday, June 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Yough eighth-graders (from left) Angela Ambrosia, 13, Kenny Anderson, 14, and Brian Baker, 14, take part in a nature scavenger hunt, figuring out the clues and locating the needed items.
Yough eighth-graders Faith Knudson, 14, and Jacob Lauteri, 14, use identification charts to help them pinpoint the creatures found in the stream.
Yough eighth-grader Sam Lindner, 13, scoops out macro-invertebrates to add to the study list.
Yough eighth-graders Trinity Harris, 14, and Olivia Kess, 14, check out the pelts at the wildlife station.

For 35 weeks out of each school year, students in the third and eighth grades of the Yough School District spend time in a traditional classroom setting, but for one week, they get to venture outdoors to experience nature and learn from the great outdoors.

Environmental Education Week is held every year at Cedar Creek Park, welcoming the students to enjoy different areas of the park while applying classroom lessons to actual live settings.

“This is a great way for these students to be able to see what they have been learning about in their classes,” Yough Intermediate Middle School teacher and event coordinator Brian Grindle said of the week of outdoor classes. “This gives them the opportunity to do hands-on activities, applying what they have learned in the traditional classroom setting to actual environmental setting, and it's fun.”

The students are placed in groups then assigned different areas or stations to visit throughout the park that are specifically set up for the program.

Students learn about the environment, water and pollution, local and state wildlife, trees, plants and macro-vertebrate identification.

“I think that this is cool, and I like being outside,” student Angela Ambrosia, 13 said. “I just really like coming to Cedar Creek. It's so nice here.”

The students split the week, with the third-grade students coming for part of the week and the eighth-grade students coming for the latter part of the week.

The lessons offered in the park setting are geared toward which age group will be attending, but all focus on the benefits of the outdoor hands-on learning experience.

“These students get to experience things not seen in a classroom,” sixth-grade math and science teacher Lou Korpar said.

Korpar was assisting with the station that was based on Pennsylvania wildlife, focusing on the otter and beaver, which are both experiencing a rebirth in the state.

“The otter and the beaver were both extirpated and pretty much nonexistent in our area,” Pennsylvania Game Commission intern Ray McGrew said. “They have now been reintroduced, and they are doing good. It's good to teach these kids while they are young the importance of taking care of the environment and the wildlife.”

Students spent time identifying wildlife and trees, taking part in a scavenger hunt that challenged their skills, took nature walks, learned about state game, floral and fauna, and spent time in the stream looking for water life to be identified.

“This is fun,” student Sam Lindner said. “We get to apply what we have learned, and it's fun.”

The Environmental Education Week has now been taking place for many years, and Grindle said that he is thrilled that the district supports the outdoor classes.

“While many districts contract outside agencies to provide this educational experience we continue to strive to utilize the resources in our own back yard, Grindle said. “It's great that the district is so enthusiastic about these outdoor classes and it gives these kids an exciting and educational experience.”

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.