World Nature Conservation Day: Lancaster summer program teaches youth about conservation


Lancaster County Youth Conservation School students learn about controlled burns and habitat management

STEVENS, Pa. (WHTM) — Wednesday, July 28, is World Nature Conservation Day. The holiday celebrates the importance of a healthy natural environment and the need to protect natural resources.

Each year, the Lancaster County Youth Conservation School teaches teens about local conservation efforts and opportunities. This year, the Lancaster County Conservation District’s summer program coincides with the environmental holiday.

“We introduce many aspects about conservation, nature, outdoors in general,” Josh Slaymaker, returning Lancaster County Youth Conservation School counselor, said. “I like to say that we scratch the surface and give a broad-spectrum introduction to the students for them to start an interest in nature and conservation.”

The 2021 youth conservation school includes two days of virtual programming, followed by three days of in-person activities. Wednesday was the first day of in-person programming this summer.

On Wednesday, students visited the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area where they learned about creating duck nesting boxes, dove banding, controlled burns, and habitat management with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Other aspects of conservation the program explores include stream restoration, boating safety, soil conservation, wildlife identification, invasive species, and more, Slaymaker explained. The Lancaster County Youth Conservation School includes several opportunities for hands-on learning.

The program also aims to introduce teens to the numerous available career options that pertain to the environment.

“Part of our request to our presenters is to find out where they went to school, what their track was, and what positions they have now, and those positions are very broad,” Slaymaker noted.

Typically the program would be a sleep-away camp, but due to COVID-19, students this year come for the day and go home in the evenings. Slaymaker is ready to get back to the program’s original format, but he said that this hybrid version is an improvement from last year when everything was virtual.

The conservation school provides various learning opportunities and new experiences, environmental and otherwise, for students.

“Sometimes this is the first time a student might be out in the wild, away from home even, spending a night away from their house and their parents, and they’re a little nervous at first, but we’ve never had a student come through and say that they did not enjoy themselves,” Slaymaker said.

The annual Lancaster County Youth Conservation School is open to teens ages 14-16 who are interested in the outdoors.

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