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Friends School students lend a hand, learn a lot on Earth Day at Bald Eagle State Park

Matthew Truesdale, an Environmental Education Specialist at Bald Eagle State Park, shows a beaver pelt to Jakob Grace and other students from the Friends School that spent a rainy Earth Day at the Park Wednesday.
Matthew Truesdale, an Environmental Education Specialist at Bald Eagle State Park, shows a beaver pelt to Jakob Grace and other students from the Friends School that spent a rainy Earth Day at the Park Wednesday. CDT photo

It didn’t just rain Wednesday morning at Bald Eagle State Park; it poured.

But that didn’t put a damper on students’ enthusiasm to brave the weather and clean up the park.

“It’s important to help clean up the environment and make it nicer because that’s where we live,” said Maya Dombroskie, 8.

She was one of about 120 kindergarten to eighth-grade students from State College Friends School who took a trip to the park to help in environmental enhancement initiatives as part of an Earth Day project.

“Part of our mission at the school is to be good stewards, and Earth Day is a natural fit for that,” head of school Dan Hendey said.

Maya and classmate Devin Farahani, a second-grader, grabbed garbage bags, and with the help of some parent volunteers, walked along trails and along the beach picking up trash.

Devin said most of the garbage he collected was plastic bottles, napkins and candy wrappers.

“That was the most fun because I was helping clean with my friends and it’s making the area look better,” Devin said.

Middle-school students raked leaves, brush and debris and planted milkweed seeds collected from a project the school was involved with last year, Hendey said.

“I’m a big believer in learning from doing,” Hendey said. “You can read something or see it on TV, but when you’re able to be hands-on, you get a sense of the impact your work can have on your surroundings.”

Environmental education specialist Matt Truesdale said Friends School administration contacted the park earlier in the year about setting up a field trip to help with student service projects.

“Between April and June is when we’re busy and do a ton of educational outreach activities with schools,” Truesdale said. “It’s our chance to allow the kids to be interactive, and it falls in a time that coincides with their curriculum.”

Kindergarten and first-grade teacher Lisa Gamble’s class created a pollinator garden to help children understand the role they play as stewards of nature.

“Through various activities, including building a pollinator garden and raising butterflies, the children learn to live with the rest of the species on the planet and to do their part to take care of the natural world,” she said.

They also grew milkweed for monarch butterflies to re-establish their habitat.

“Kids are the future of the world,” Gamble said. “They need to grow up being aware of how the choices we make have an impact on natural cycles.”

Truesdale and fellow environmental education specialist Zach McCloskey also presented a short seminar for students that allowed the children to identify different animals.

“We learned about all the different kind of mammals and learned how we are connected,” Devin said. “It’s kind of cool that we work as one.”

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