Participants in the newly created Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps got to experience the area’s natural landscape – from its green forests to deep blue lakes to winding hiking trails – as both a classroom and workplace this summer.
Ten students from five area school districts have participated in the Student Conservation Association program that is scheduled to run until the middle of August.
They earned their paychecks by clearing trails, improving signage and performing other tasks to enhance Prince Gallitzin State Park, Blue Knob State Park, and other Department of Conservation and Natural Resources-maintained properties. While doing the work, the students also received lessons about the nature that surrounds them.
“I had a lot of fun this year,” said Ashton White, a Windber Area High School student, during an event held at Prince Gallitzin on Monday. “It was something definitely different. It was a new experience for me being outside all the time. I took away a lot. I learned a lot. It was a really fun experience.”
Richland High School’s Devin Fisher was inspired by his weeks spent in nature.
“It sounded like an interesting summer job, but it made me really consider going into this field,” Fisher said.
Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps was designed to provide participants valuable hands-on learning experiences.
“For the young people, this is what education really is meant to be all about,” said former Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent Gerald Zahorchak (in above photo), who assisted with developing the program. “If we could do this in all forms of the disciplines – getting project-based education where you actually feel the work, learn as you’re working – it’s stuff that will last you forever.”
Fifty students participated in the statewide program, doing their work in the Johnstown, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg areas.