May 24, 2010
4-H brings youngsters outside
Camp Owahta in Solon hosts annual forestry weekend for children
SOLON — Midday Saturday, Gabrielle Thompson, 9, stood in the shade of trees and focused her attention on an insect inside a clear plastic container.
She stood staring through her glasses as the bug moved.
Keeping the bug was only temporary, she said — she had been catching and releasing bugs, including caterpillars, since the morning.
Thompson and other children who attended the 4th Annual 4-H Forestry Weekend at Camp Owahta in Solon, collected bugs and observed the forest ecosystem.
About 30 children, from all over the state, participated in the camp, along with some parents.
It was held Friday through Sunday as a way to teach about the environment.
Activities at the three-day camp included an introduction to forestry, learning about tree identification, pest hike, hiking, learning to read a map and compass.
Gary Goff, the event’s co-director, discussed careers in forestry. The careers fall into four categories — production, protection, recreation and education — and include occupations in horticulture, timber industry and even education.
Rebecca Hargrave, co-director of the camp, showed the campers items that illustrated the biodiversity existing in New York state forests.
Hargrave showed students a branch with black knot, a deadly infestation that grows on cherry trees. It is cankerous and will kill the branch, trunk and roots of the tree. She also showed them several other things found in a forest, such as a log teeming with fungus.
Usually, a log could be used for firewood if dry enough, but as Hargrave explained, once a log is riddled with fungus, it is useless as firewood. Once it is infested with fungus, the role of the log is to continue to decay and add nutrients back into the environment.
“It’s just really neat to see how well the kids do,” Hargrave said, after forestry weekend was over. She said she noticed an improvement in forest knowledge from returning campers and a strong interest from both, returning and new campers.
Later in the day, the campers went on a hike on surrounding land of the 128-acre facility. They were told to collect items from the forest.
On the hike, Sam Quinn-Jacobs found tent caterpillars eating on a few green leaves. Tent caterpillars are readily seen in Cortland County. Tent caterpillars create webbed nests in trees, a process required for them to develop into moths. The process is required for the caterpillars’ survival but can be deadly to its host, the trees. Tent caterpillars are voracious eaters, damaging trees and depriving them of nutrients as they eat on the leaves of trees.
Despite the presence of mosquitoes and flies, Quinn-Jacobs, 10, said he liked being out in the forest.
“I like it. I know which plants are wild edibles. I learned how to survive when you’re out on you’re own,” said Quinn-Jacobs.
His older brother, Don, 20, accompanied him at the camp. The elder Quinn-Jacobs works as a forest technician and appreciates his little brother’s interests in learning about the world around him.
“It’s important that he understands how the environment he lives in works,” said Don Quinn-Jacobs.
Thompson’s parents feel the same way.
“It’s important that people appreciate nature in its true beauty,” said Thompson’s mother, Jacquie. “When you look around, you’re seeing the hand of God.”
Jacquie Thompson, a teacher, and her husband, Gary Thompson, a landscaper, are from Kingston, Jamaica, where the prosperity of the natural environment largely affects jobs for Jamaicans in many sectors— including farming, fishing and even tourism. They wanted to instill the importance of appreciating the environment in their American-born children.
“Everything begins with the youngest of us,” Jacquie Thompson said.
A portion of the funding, about $300 annually for the weekend, comes from the southern Finger Lakes chapter of the New York State Forest Owners Association. Campers and their chaperones pay $35 to attend forestry weekend.
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