Students from 20 states come to W.Va. for training at climate and conservation congress

June 25, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Some of the 100-plus students from 20 high schools from around the country load canoes and kayaks for their 10-mile paddle down the Potomac River from the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services National Conservation Training Center boat ramp to the Shepherdstown, W.Va., boat ramp Monday morning.
Photo by Richard Belisle

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — One of the first things some of the high school students learned after launching their canoes on the Potomac River Monday morning was that if they both paddled on the same side they just went around in circles.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) officials rented more than 100 canoes and kayaks to carry more than 140 high school students and their adult leaders on a 10-mile float down the Potomac River from below Dam No. 4 to Shepherdstown.

Some of the kids seemed at home on the water. Others not so much.

Two paddlers dumped their canoe moments after launching it from the NCTC boat ramp.

The adults’ initial attempts at organizing the canoes and kayaks that were spread helter-skelter across the river resembled attempts to herd a flock of ducks. Things quickly settled down once the flotilla got itself assembled and pointed its way downriver. Adults led in front and shepherded from behind.

Monday’s paddle was part of NCTC’s fourth Student Climate and Conservation Congress, a weeklong gathering sponsored with the Green Schools Alliance and other groups.

Students from 20 states are participating.

The week is jammed with seminars and speakers, including authors, filmmakers, wildlife photographers, environmental scientists and educators plus U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel, said Steve Chase, chief of the training center’s Division of Education Outreach.

Green Schools Alliance is a network of schools working together to address environmental and climate challenges, said Peg Watson, alliance president. “We have 3,000 schools in 42 states and 15 countries,” she said.

“This is a great opportunity for students to meet others like themselves who share the same passions,” she said of the congress. “They won’t feel alone here and they’ll make lifelong friendships.”

Jim Siegel, one of the adults in charge, said the river trip will be a “wilderness experience for many of them who have no outdoor experiences,” he said.
Students will see wildlife like turtles, birds and fish. They’ll learn the history and culture of the Potomac and threats to it from pollution and development, he said.

Among the students jumping into canoes and kayaks Monday were Jack Seas, 17, of Potomac, Md., Camila Tellev, 15, of Princeton, N.J., and Melissa Farley, 17, of New York City.

Farley is president of her school’s environmental club. This is her first time in West Virginia. She looked forward to getting some new ideas to bring back to her school’s environmental club.

Seas learned about the NCTC congress from a fellow member of the Appalachian Mountain Club and said he has kayaked in Harpers Ferry. He hopes to study environmental science in college.

Tellev said she hopes to meet students who feel about the environment as she does.

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