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Out of school leads to out of doors

Pine Bush’s after-school explorations fuel for minds, good for bodies

The Albany Pine Bush’s 3,200 acres make for an ideal nature lab for students on an after-school hike. The preserve offers the program into December.

The Albany Pine Bush’s 3,200 acres make for an ideal nature lab for students on an after-school hike. The preserve offers the program into December.

— In the age of technology, it might seem the “go play outside” credo is in danger of dying off. Yet with 3,200 acres of a globally-rare ecosystem in the backyard of the Capital District, kids are putting down the iPad and discovering what the outdoors has to offer.

The Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center at 195 New Karner Road in Albany will be holding its annual “Afterschool Adventurer” program starting Sept. 19 and running through Dec. 5. Every first and third Thursday of each month, young explorers and their families can take guided tours through the Pine Bush’s different trails and habitats and explore some of the region’s unknown treasures.

“I was looking for a way to get children and their families to get outside and play after school, rather than anything else,” Jacqueline Citriniti, the Albany Pine Bush environmental educator, said. “Get outdoors, have fun.”

The bi-monthly adventure is completely free and is offered to students in first through fifth grades. Since this is a family-based activity, children must be accompanied by at least one parent or caregiver, though bringing the entire family along is recommended.

“I think it’s a great experience if the whole family is learning about the environment and appreciating the ecosystem,” Citriniti said.

Each week, Citriniti will lead the group on one of the many trails the Pine Bush Preserve has to offer, explaining habitats and how they differ from the others. The hikes last an hour and although it’s nothing too strenuous, Citriniti said everyone must wear sturdy walking shoes and long pants and bring along drinking water.

The Pine Bush extends into parts of Colonie, Guilderland and Albany and works to protect and restore the historic and natural areas of the preserve. The thousands of acres of pine bush are home to 45 different species, including the endangered Karner Blue butterfly. Through the tours, children and families can learn about different animals and bugs, including caterpillars and spiders.

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