Student Leaders Chart a Future Course for Clean Water in PA and the Bay

(HARRISBURG, PA)—After a short canoe paddle down the river on a hot Monday afternoon, Emma Stone wiped a wet sponge over the stone surface beneath her feet to reveal an ancient Native American carving on a huge group of rocks in the Susquehanna.

"It's crazy to think they are in Pennsylvania," Stone said of the petroglyphs. "Usually you think of more exotic places for them, not Pennsylvania." The Carlisle High School student said the images left a lasting impression.

"If I were to boat by this, I'd think it's just a rock," added Travis Zimmerman of Fairfield High. "But we had the privilege to hear the history of this place."

Earlier in the day, Stone and a dozen other students visited a Carlisle area farm owned by Denny Garman. "This whole farm is run by only five people and farmer Denny went out of his way to figure out what he could do to help the farm and the environment," Stone said, complimenting all that she saw at Creekside Dairy. "And five people run 200 acres. That's so impressive."

Earlier in the day, Abby Hebenton was in awe of conservation practices on the Cumberland County dairy farm they were visiting.

"The robotic milking system is profitable, efficient, and innovative," the Fairfield High student said of what she saw at Creekside Dairy. "And so many practices Denny Garman has put onto his farm. He's voluntarily worked with the conservation district to implement so many clean water practices here."

The farm and river experiences for a dozen members of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) Pennsylvania Student Leadership Council (SLC) on Monday, occurred on the first of a six-day summer course sponsored by CBF. About 75 student leaders from the Bay watershed states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia are engaged in five distinct courses through Saturday.

CBF's "50 Forward" educational experience celebrates its first half-century of commitment to saving the Chesapeake Bay and local rivers and streams, and inspires the next generation's potential to continue those efforts.

"We hope that the student leaders feel a deep connection to the world around them and how their choices may impact our environment," said Emily Thorpe, SLC coordinator in Pennsylvania. "I hope that they feel empowered to become leaders in their own schools and communities and share what they are passionate about with others."

The courses encourage CBF student leaders to investigate through direct observation and interviewing experts in the field and to learn about the vital role that agriculture, aquaculture, and local cultures play in the health and productivity of local waters and the economy.

Area students participating in "50 Forward" are from Angora Cyber School, and Big Spring, Bishop McDevitt, Carlisle, Chambersburg, Cumberland Valley, Fairfield, Mechanicsburg, Northern York, Shippensburg, and Steelton Highspire school districts.

On the Garman farm Monday, Hebenton, Stone and other SLC students learned about the relationship of farms to the health of local rivers and streams.

They paddled down the Susquehanna River from Safe Harbor to the petroglyphs on the river between York and Lancaster counties. As much as 1,000 years old, the petroglyphs are ancient rock carvings of animals, human figures, and other symbols left by Native Americans and accessible only by water.

On Tuesday, the SLC students will travel to the Bay to learn about farming practices on the Eastern Shore. Until Saturday's main event, the students will explore the Bay from CBF's environmental education center on Port Isobel Island, east of Tangier Island.

The multi-state student leadership courses will culminate in Annapolis with a special activity at CBF headquarters, the Philip Merrill Center, on Saturday. CBF student leaders will share what they've learned from their weeklong expeditions in the watershed and talk to decision makers about their visions of the future.

At the event, the Pennsylvania SLC members will brief the other students on the council's campaign to have the Eastern hellbender designated as Pennsylvania's official state amphibian. They have drafted Senate Bill 658, currently in the state Senate.

Also at the final event on Saturday, students will present displays that celebrate the Foundation's 50th anniversary and CBF President Will Baker will address the gathering.

For their "50 Forward" experience, student leaders from the Goddard Legacy Leadership Institute are staying at the Ironmaster's Mansion at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. They will be planting a riparian buffer along Mountain Creek and building rain barrels near planting beds in the park. After those projects, Goddard students will leave for CBF's Karen Noonan Memorial Environmental Education Center on the Bay, and explore 20 acres of marsh and the surrounding Bay.

CBF's Student Leadership Council in Pennsylvania is open to all high school students and is designed to give them a voice and an active role in clean water efforts. For more information about the SLC program in Pennsylvania, email coordinator Emily Thorpe at [email protected].

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