(Kelley Thompson is a Program Specialist in FLOC’s Scholars Program.)
The FLOC Scholars Program took 19 Scholars students to the Outdoor Education Center (OEC) in Harpers Ferry, West Va., to learn about and explore the natural world. The OEC trip was a fun and exciting adventure infused with environmental learning, natural world exploring, and exposure to ways to be greener.
While at the OEC, FLOC Scholars built upon a foundation of environmental knowledge developed during the school year. They were exposed to ways to act on behalf of the environment as well as careers in environmental fields. They engaged in dialogue about the importance of green action. And, they did all of this while adventuring, exploring and trying new and exciting outdoor activities.
Specifically, the Scholars students learned about wildlife ecology on hikes, at campfires and while using a map and compass to explore the OEC property. They visited the Blue Ridge Rehabilitation Center to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation processes as well as the impacts that humans have on the environment. They even got a chance to meet ‘ambassador’ animals, such as a rehabilitated turtle, hawk and opossum.
Students learned about biodiversity, forest ecology, leave no trace (LNT) principles and human impacts on the environment. With this knowledge they were able to practice LNT principles while hiking and camping in the Appalachian Mountains and canoeing on the Shenandoah River. On their canoeing/camping adventure, they were able to identify trees and explore different ecosystems.
Students also learned about wetland ecology. They visited different bodies of water (creeks, rivers and ponds) and were able to explore and discover with nets, magnifying glasses and other water tools. They learned how to identify various macroinvertebrates and how to test water temperature, pH levels and oxidation levels. In learning these things, students were able to assess the water quality of different local bodies of water and draw their own conclusions about human impacts on local water.
While at the OEC, students learned about natural resource and wildlife conservation. They talked to biologists and historians at the National Conservation Training Center and scientists at the USDA Fishery. At every meal they talked about the value of composting and recycling. They also participated in hands on activities that taught them about alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric energies.
After summer programming at the OEC, students are more informed and better equipped to make sound environmental choices. And, very importantly, many are eager to take advantage of other opportunities to get out and explore the natural world.