Pupils get taste of the outdoors

WINTERSVILLE – More than 600 fifth-graders from schools in Jefferson County visited Fernwood State Forest earlier this week to take part in the Outdoor Education Days program sponsored by the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District.

All Steubenville City School District pupils were present from the seven classes at Harding Middle School on Wednesday, participating in the Rockets Away program, as well as the Forest Sampling, Beekeeping, Life of a Wildlife Officer, Solid Waste, Litter and Waste and Reduce, Reuse and Recycle programs.

For the second year, Janine Yeske of the Ohio State University Extension agency, had the group gather on the shooting range to set off a rocket from each class. Kati Mills’ class was the winner, with the yellow and black “bumble bee” rocket going up for 6.33 seconds of air time. The team consisted of Xander Costlow, Mai Pierro, Myla Gulan and Emmanuel Ware.

Four-H camp counselors were assistants to the leaders and teachers for the event.

Buckeye Local pupils were present Monday to take soil samples; Karaffa, Hills Elementary and the Diocese of Steubenville schools participated on Tuesday; Harding pupils on Wednesday; and Wayne Elementary, Wintersville Elementary, Jefferson Christian School and home schooled pupils, Thursday.

Tom Macy, Fernwood forester, said the outdoor education program is a learning experience for children.

“It is challenging, but rewarding, to be part of the program,” he said.

Macy discussed proper forest management including asking questions such as what is the most common tree species; what is the average tree size; and how old are the trees?

The youth were surprised to be able to hold a drone bee and not worry about being stung, organizers said, as some said the drone’s movements on their hands tickled.

Joe and Cindy Rodak, area beekeepers who received the JSWCD Service Award, discussed bees with the pupils. The queen bee, marked with a red or blue dot in the glass hive, is guarded by other bees, lives up to three to four years, is the egg machine in the hive and can lay up to 1,500 eggs per day, the Rodaks said. The pupils also learned that the male bees are drones and are the worker bees, which live for about 42 days. There can be up to 60,000 worker bees in a good-sized colony.

Craig Porter, county wildlife officer, told the pupils he is the person who takes calls and questions from the public regarding wildlife. He also handles pollution spills and wild animal kills, assists other police agencies, such as the sheriff’s department or Ohio State Highway Patrol, checks hunters and fishermen on a routine basis to make sure they are complying with wildlife laws, does bird banding and electrofishing.

Louise Holliday, county education coordinator, and Anita Petrella, county recycling program director, offered a demonstration about where wastewater goes and how landfills can pollute drinking water.

“People make more trash during the summer while on vacation than during the Thanksgiving holiday, winter holidays and New Year’s celebration,” Holliday said.

She noted that each person throws away about 4.5 pounds of waste each day and aluminum cans littering the environment will biodegrade in 200 to 500 years.

Stephanie Vance, JSWCD board member and faculty member at Eastern Gateway Community College, presented a program on wetlands in the area.

She said the easy way to identify wetlands is to look for cattails, duckweed and rushes. The three watersheds in the county are Cross Creek, Short Creek and Yellow Creek, according to Vance.