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An outdoors education

Annual Five Rivers event teaches youngsters about the environment

A second grade calls from Pashley Elementary in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District learn about animals living in the Capital Region through a hands-on demonstration at Five Rivers.

A second grade calls from Pashley Elementary in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District learn about animals living in the Capital Region through a hands-on demonstration at Five Rivers. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— “We teach them about alternative energy sources, and we also teach them enough information so they can go home and remember to do things around the house like turn off lights and wear a sweater when it’s cold instead of turning up the heat,” Sheppard said.

“We just want to get our environmental message out and teach them the three ‘Rs’ of conservation — reduce, reuse, recycle,” said Thompson.

Gary Feinland, a program specialist who taught the kids about composting through a worm demonstration, said reaching students at a young age is important because one of the best ways to reach parents is through their children.

“Secondly, once kids learn this stuff at such a young age it becomes just a fact to them and becomes a part of who they are,” he said. “They will likely remember it more and understand the importance of taking these measures for the rest of their lives.”

One of the children’s favorite stations was the one manned by DEC Senior Wildlife Biologist Karl Parker. Although no live animals were shown, the students were able to handle snake skins, animal pelts and creatures in jars. The children are taught ways to identify wildlife, how the DEC tracks wildlife throughout the state and the types of animals native to New York.

“There’s a limit to what you can tell second graders,” Parker said. “You have to keep it really basic or they will lose interest. My station is really a self-explorative exhibit.”

Thompson said each event gets bigger and better.

“We really just want to spark their interest in helping improve the world for future generations,” he said.

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