The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

July 29, 2013

Bob Garrett's Outdoors column: No child left indoors

— Outdoor education works. Learning in the out-of-doors and in-the-field provides direct contact with the natural world.  

This type of learning allows participants to develop individual values and opinions that are informed by first-hand experience while in their natural world. There’s just something about nature and being in nature that’s a powerful source for learning.

Next Saturday, they may not bring about world peace or magically change the universe, but the lucky folks who choose to participate in the 3rd Annual Penns Creek Ecology Field Day will likely have a ball splashing and frolicking in the “crick” while learning a lot.   

Hopefully, no child will be left inside during this event and as many young people as possible will attend. The field day will be held in the New Berlin Commons right next to Penns Creek.

This field day consists of two sessions with one session being held in the morning and the other in the afternoon. In the past, nearly 100 participants, both adults and children, collected water samples and learned about the animals and organisms that make Penns Creek their home during the field day activities.  

According to Jason Winey, who is the Watershed Specialist for the Snyder County Conservation District and the field day coordinator, “Participants have been successful in collecting many species of animals including mayflies, crayfish, hellgrammites, dragonflies, beetles, water scorpions and giant water bugs. In addition, about a dozen different species of fish were collected such as smallmouth bass, red-breasted sunfish, mad-toms, rock bass, cut lip minnows and darters.”

More information about the field day is available at: www.snydercounty.org/Depts/Conservation_District. Reservations are required for this great day of fun and learning.  

Please give Jason Winey a call at the Snyder County Conservation District office at (570) 837-3000, extension 112 to make sure that you and your family members get to be part of the event. Also, because of the hands-on nature of the entire day, registrations will be limited to 40 people at each session that will run from 9 a.m. to noon and again from 1-4 p.m. Winey suggested that Ecology Day is not meant to be a kids-only event. He mentioned that last year, a grandmother brought along three generations of her family and each family member actively participated and learned according to their interest and ability.

Ecology Day is hosted through a partnership with the Lower Penns Creek Watershed Association members. Funding is provided by the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act that is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Winey explained that, “After the aquatic animals and fish are caught, the participants study and identify them under microscopes that are furnished by Susquehanna University. This leads to many ‘ah-ha’ type moments as soaking wet and very muddy participants observe for their first time the structures that the creek critters build and see with their own eyes the abundant microscopic life in the samples that they collect. Everyone gets to gently handle the fish while learning about each species’ adaptions and characteristics. At the conclusion of the day, all of the fish, animals, macro-invertebrates and other organisms are released back into the creek unharmed.”

This is outdoor learning at its best. Participants will learn about stream ecology through in-stream activities, observations and learning stations. Goeff Goodenow of the Merrill Linn Conservancy mentioned to me that his organization will be set-up at Ecology Day. So you can count on the stations being staffed by enthusiastic and knowledgeable individuals.  

Attendees will learn some of the simple things that each of us can do to improve the health of Penns Creek and all of our valley’s waterways. Without a doubt, this year there will be lots of discussion and learning about invasive species including the rusty crawfish that has moved into Penns Creek. By the way, if you can participate, please be prepared to get wet and muddy and dress accordingly which might mean a change of clothes for the trip home.  

This type of outdoor learning can lead active citizenship. Citizenship may bring about a greater sense of connection and responsibility for each other and for nature. As summer drags on, temperatures rise, and boredom starts to set in, the Penns Creek Ecology Field Day might just be the perfect anecdote to the summer doldrums. Hope you and your family can make it.

n Email comments to garrettoutdoors@gmail.com

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