MAPLE SPRINGS - Students will agree: there's nothing better than a field trip.
Over the course of two days, 14 area schools participated in 4-H's Conservation Field Days at the Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center.
During their visit, students walked from exhibit to exhibit - 29 in total, which ranged from topics such as forestry and recycling, to mammals of Chautauqua County and why grapes grow in Chautauqua; the event even touched upon cutting-edge topics such as green power and pH and acid rain.
"This whole event is the result of a lot of people coming together to help out with a great cause," said Emily Kidd, 4-H Youth Development Program issue leader. "Some of the volunteers here come as part of their job, such as the people from the DEC that are here right now, but many of them come as volunteers, because spreading information about their specific area of conservation is very important to them."
One of those volunteers was Sam Radicella, Chautauqua County Beekeepers Association president. Radicella arrived with a sample beehive to show students, and explained the many reasons beekeeping is so important to ecological health.
"One of the things I try to explain to the children is the importance of beekeeping," said Radicella. "Not only because of honey, but mostly because of pollination. I think we've all heard of colony collapse disorder, and how it has affected a lot of the commercial bee keepers. There's a critical need in agriculture right now to have pollination from the honey bee. It's also very important to just promote beekeeping in Chautauqua County and to continue to find new people who are interested in it."
David Pachan, who has the distinction of being the only Forest Ranger in Chautauqua County, explained to the students the importance of forest conservation, as well as what a typical day in the field is like for him.
"I start out by explaining to them what a forest ranger does for work," said Pachan. "Law enforcement, search and rescue and fire prevention. That's really what I focus on: fire prevention. I talk about the natural resources and why we need them, then I go into the different tools I use as a forest ranger. In Chautauqua County, we have over 22,000 acres of forest, and it's important to prevent forest fires. So much of what we depend on comes from the forests, but everything the wildlife depends on comes from it."
The event had an unlikely volunteer in 14-year-old Sam Starceski. Starceski became an avid trapper after his brother found his father's old traps, and volunteered for Conservation Days to help explain the long and important history of trapping.
"I tell them how to prepare the traps, the different types of traps used, the different sets for traps, the tools I use, and how to process the animals that have been trapped," said Starceski. "The main animals that trappers go for is the fox, coyote, mink, muskrat and beaver. Most animals are caught with foot-traps, and I showed the students how to set those up as well."
Although Starceski is around the same age as the students, he said that all the students were very respectful, and even said that the students seemed to be very interested that someone their age could be so knowledgeable.
"Most of the students showed interest," said Starceski. "I feel really comfortable talking about trapping because I enjoy it so much, and I'd like to help other people to enjoy it too."
And although the students were excited to be outside, doing hands-on learning instead of being inside of a classroom, the teachers present believed the students were very well behaved and really took a lot away from the event.
"So far, the student have really enjoy going from exhibit to exhibit," said Justin Akin, Ripley Central School math teacher. "(Starceski) did a presentation on trapping, and the kids really enjoyed it. The kids responded really well to his presentation style, which was very unique, and it affords them the opportunity to get a first-hand account about things they might not get to hear about otherwise. We went to another presentation which was on the lifecycle of a water droplet, and the kids got to do an activity that illustrated the water cycle process. They're just really enjoying the day."
At that moment, Akin asked his students if they were having fun, and a raucous cheer erupted from the Ripley students.