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Chris Van Maaren explains pond life (including leeches) to students
Chris Van Maaren explains pond life (including leeches) to students

Sixth graders explore the natural world at annual Conservation Field Day

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Friday, June 10th proved an exciting day for Saint Lawrence County sixth graders. Students attended the annual Conservation Field Day at Indian Creek Nature Center near Rensselaer Falls. Sarah Harris joined them to learn about wildlife, wetlands, and the importance of conservation.

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6th graders peer at pond creatures

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Friday, June 10th proved an exciting day for Saint Lawrence County sixth graders. Students attended the annual Conservation Field Day at Indian Creek Nature Center near Rensselaer Falls. Much to the relief of organizers (who had canceled the event the day before because of rain) the day donned cloudy but stayed dry. Students were already attending activities by the time the sun made an appearance (and decided to stay) around 10 am.

Students circulated to different workshops spanning such topics as beekeeping, boat-building, trapping, soils, and pond life. Sixth grader Ryan Shipie's favorite workshop? Bats. "I think bats are pretty interesting because of how they're nocturnal," he said. "I learned that they can pick up fish while they're flying and eat 'em."

Administrators, too, enjoyed the day. "It's a wonderful experience for our sixth graders," said Don Brown, a retired DEC forester and long-time Indian Creek board member and field day organizer. John Wood, senior forester for the DEC, agreed. "Well, they were pretty amazed that there was some animal feces on the boardwalk. That was of great interest to many of the students."

One of the most exciting moments of the morning was when DEC employee Chris Van Maaren reached into a tank of freshly-gathered pond creatures and pulled out a leech. It was sucking on a fish. The kids scrambled for a look.

Amidst cries of curiosity and disgust from the students, Van Maaren smiled and articulated precisely what makes the field day so fun and important. "Just getting a sense of the complexity of nature. Getting a sense of this little simple pond here, how much there really is in there and what it really entails. Catchin' the fish and showin' 'em what we got--it's just as much fun for me as it is for the kids."  

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