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Penn Forest will host Outdoor Classroom

| Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Educators from the Outdoor Classroom will present information about the microorganisms in soil that help break down and decompose organic matter.

The Penn Forest Natural Burial Park is continuing to use its grounds as a springboard for education.

The “green” cemetery, located on Colorado Street, will host an Aug. 30 workshop conducted by The Outdoor Classroom, a learning facility based in Upper St. Clair, which aims to bring a love of science to young and old alike.

“We do outreach if we're invited to events like this, but we also hold nature-based summer camps that focus on environmental science for kids from age 4 up to age 12,” said program administrator Eva Barinas.

Barinas will teach the class, “Nature's Recycling,” which focuses on the process of decomposition.

“I guess it's kind of ironic that it's at a cemetery,” she said.

Cemetery owner Pete McQuillin met Outdoor Classroom Program Manager Jessica Kester at the cemetery's geocaching event held in May, and invited her to bring the Outdoor Classroom to Penn Forest.

“I'm just trying to make (the burial park) available to the public in all kinds of ways,” McQuillin said. “It's certainly part of our publicity, if people find out about it and are interested in the cemetery, but we're not selling or anything like that.”

Barinas said the class will look at fungi and microorganisms' role in decomposition.

“Aside from just plain old dirt, there are living organisms in the soil that help with decomposition,” she said. “Part of that process is helped along by fungi.”

In addition to outreach, Outdoor Classroom educators match their offerings with curriculum from surrounding South Hills school districts and invite students to their home base, at Boyce Mayview Park.

“We have the kids work in the field, and apply what they're learning in biology to the things we do,” Barinas said. “We've also worked with teachers from other high schools and middle schools who come out to explore some real-life examples of the environmental science their students are working on.”

This fall the Outdoor Classroom will mark a decade in existence.

The class will last one hour, and begin at 10:30 a.m. Refreshments, a Q&A about the burial park and park tours will take place following the workshop.

The cost is $5 per child. To sign up, RSVP by Aug. 25 to 412-265-4606.

For more information, visit TheoutdoorclassroomPA.org.

Patrick Varine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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