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Environmental center expanding

November 20, 1997

Environmental center expanding

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Learning to pronounce the six-syllable tongue twister Tayamentasachta is an education in itself.

To native American Indians it meant never-ending waters or a spring, but to thousands of Greencastle-Antrim school students, the Tayamentasachta Center for Environmental Studies is as much a feeling as it is a place to learn about nature and how humans can live with and protect it. It's where they learn about the environment, said Charles White, center director and its main teacher.

About 30 years ago the center was a southern Franklin County farm. On it sat an 1840 farmhouse, a Pennsylvania bank barn, corn crib and other outbuildings necessary for farming in simpler times.

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A spring-fed stream that now feeds a small trout nursery runs through the property. There are also wood lots, fields, an orchard, walnut plantation and garden areas.

The school board bought the 35-acre farm adjoining the district's school campus on Leitersburg Street in 1966, White said.

The grounds are open to the public for hiking and other nature-related activities, as is the main house with its natural history museum and library. Teacher workshops and school programs for all grade levels are taught there.

Last year more than 14,000 people, including students from the Greencastle-Antrim School District, surrounding school districts and community groups visited the center. This does not include visitors who come after school hours and on weekends to walk the center's trails, observe wildlife, picnic or just enjoy the grounds.

The only place large enough on the farm to serve as a classroom is an upstairs room in the farmhouse. Its confines are inadequate, there is no storage room and it is not handicap-accessible, White said.

Outside, just up from the barn, a small group of workmen is hammering away at a new building, one that meets all modern education, fire and safety requirements, White said.

Measuring 30-by-60 feet, the new multi-purpose center will become Tayamentasachta's main classroom. It will also have two workrooms and office and storage space, White said.

Construction will cost $60,000.

"We have a $20,000 grant from the state Department of Labor and Industry for the materials and the school district gave us another $10,000. We'll get the rest through fund-raisers," White said.

Free labor to build the structure is being provided by the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps, a training program for young people. So far Eric Wagerman, the corps' skilled crew leader, and two trainees have done most of the work on the building, White said.

He said in the last year, corps trainees have done the equivalent of more than $100,000 in repair work to center facilities.

"I had a 10-year improvement program mapped out and they completed it all in a year," White said.

Wagerman said his crew is short three workers. Anyone 16 to 25 can join by applying to Wagerman on the work site or at the local state Job Center office.

Working with the corps gives trainees a taste of what working in a trade is like, Wagerman said. Many are encouraged to go to vo-tech school after their corps experience, he said.

Since 1984 nearly 11,000 young Pennsylvanians have served in the corps, completing more than 600 public works projects.

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