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Environmental center officials want to share it with community

September 19, 2007|By ASHLEY HARTMAN

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - All of the elementary school children in the Tuscarora School District have been to the Charles T. Brightbill Environmental Center at one time or another, but the rest of the community might not know what the center has to offer.

In an effort to promote exposure to the community, the environmental center had an open house Tuesday to show local businesses and parents what the center is all about.

"Kids know about this, but parents don't," said Sheila Snider, board vice president of the Tuscarora Wildlife Education Program, which is housed at the environmental center. The center is behind the James Buchanan High School off Pa. 75.

"(The center) had been looking to help market what they had to offer to the business community," said Mary-Anne Gordon, executive director of the Mercersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

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"I think it's a great tool for the children and it has a lot to offer," said Gordon, adding that the center offers indoor and outdoor meeting spaces to organizations for no fee.

The environmental center was built in 2000 and has animal displays featuring the African savannah, American southwest and Pennsylvanian wildlife. There are also indoor and outdoor classrooms, a library, nature trails and collections of fossils, rocks, skulls and nests.

"We have visitors from age 3 up through adults," said Rick Showalter, who recently began the director of the center.

"We very strongly believe that students should explore nature through hands-on experience to see these animals up close."

Showalter said all elementary school students in the Tuscarora School District are required to come to the center for one two-hour session each school year.

"Environmentally, we need to protect what we have," Snider said.

Michelle Rhodes, treasurer of the Tuscarora Wildlife Education Project board, said a lot of the children who visit the center enjoy studying local streams.

"We'll bus them to local streams," she said. "We usually do two local streams and compare them."

The center is a private organization, funded through donations, fundraising events, government grants and memberships.

Bill Gour, the director of the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce, brought his two children and his wife to check out the center.

"Our children are homeschooled so my wife is always looking for opportunities to advance their education," said Gour, Gour who has an 8-year-old daughter named Canaan and a 4-year-old son named Malachi.

"I think it's neat," Canaan said about the environmental center. "I like the raccoon."

Gour said he would consider using the center as a meeting space.

Charles T. Brightbill, for whom the center is named, was one of the original founders of the Tuscarora Wildlife Education Project. The project was formed in 1987 when a group of Tuscarora school district educators and residents came together to create an organization that would promote environmental education. Brightbill died of cancer in 1994.

Showalter said he hopes to have an impact on students and adults that come to the center by giving them "a better understanding of how to positively coexist with nature."

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