Back from the Amazon

January 20, 1997


Staff Writer

Eight students from St. Maria Goretti and Clear Spring high schools found out recently that the Amazon rain forest is a whole lot different up close and personal.

"It was nothing like the books we'd read,'' said Jeff Shupp of Clear Spring.

The students em-barked on the journey over their Christmas vacation. While Washington Countians were experiencing the first snowstorm of the season, these students were "sweating'' through the study of insects and medicinal plants and watching birds in Peru.

In addition to Jeff, the Clear Spring contingent included students Tara Mongold, Rachel Lynch and Justin Ebersole, and teacher Aline Novak.


Goretti sent Emily Supernavage, Desiree and Stephanie Shields, Anna Patronik, and adviser Toni Patronik.

"All your senses are heightened in the rain forest,'' Toni Patronik said. "You can't believe the amount of living things in one spot - they are so camouflaged.''

Tara got her wish - she got to "dance with the natives'' on her Christmas vacation. And so did just about everyone else.

After satisfying that bit of whimsy, Tara said she really got a lot out of her eco-tourism trip to the Amazon Dec. 28.

"We saw monkeys on the canopy walkway, 120 feet off the ground,'' Tara said. "And I got attacked by a parrot.''

Justin said he was surprised that it didn't rain every day in the rain forest as he expected. In fact, it only rained one day, but it really came down, he said.

"We met a shaman, or medicine man, who had a garden full of plants that he used for medicine,'' Justin said. "There was one leaf he wrapped around his head for a headache.''

Jeff said he also was amazed at how little the people in the rain forest possess.

Rachel said she was amazed to find what she could live without.

"We actually traded our dirty clothes for handmade baskets, carvings and native jewelry,'' Jeff said.

In order to go on the trip, the students raised money and solicited contributions from businesses and organizations.

While it was expensive, Novak said she believes it was money well spent - finding ways to save the Amazon rain forest and ultimately, the world.

The trip was sponsored by International Expeditions, an eco-tourism travel agency.

Patronik, a teacher at Marshall Street School, has made several trips to the Amazon and arranges new ones for Washington County students.

Patronik has arranged for a group of Washington County middle school students to travel to a camp in another section of the Peruvian rain forest next summer to a workshop sponsored by Children's Environmental Trust Foundation, International.

The purpose of all these workshops is to educate young Americans about the importance of the rain forest so they can share their experiences with others when they return.

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