Field biology prepares Baldwinsville students for college and beyond

Baker High School

Baker High School teacher Mark Penhollow shows his field biology students a wood frog mass on a recent trip to the Beaver Lake Nature Center.

The Baldwinsville Central School District strives to provide its students with the opportunities necessary for college readiness. Students at Baker High School who are contemplating postsecondary education in environmental science, conservation and ecology have the opportunity to take a field biology course to prepare them for college and beyond. The course, taught by teacher Mark Penhollow, is an elective for seniors.

"It is projected that several hundred thousand jobs will be created over the next decade in green careers including alternative energy technology, natural resource management and environmental sciences," Penhollow said.

Many of his former students have pursued degrees and careers in environmental studies. He said students that have taken the field biology course often report back that they are better prepared for college course work than their peers.

Field biology is a hands-on, experiential course, covering the areas of ecology, conservation biology, environmental science and natural history. Students also study green technology. Penhollow teaches the course collaboratively with the Beaver Lake Nature Center, which students visit frequently. Extensive outdoor field study in all types of weather at the nature center and on the district campus makes up a large part of the course curriculum providing students with opportunities to study aquatics, soils, plants and animals in their natural habitat. Students study plant and animal interactions, the nature center's unique ecosystems and the relationship between people and the environment.

In the past students have raised brook trout in the classroom and released them into Tannery Creek in the village. For 12 years field biology students have monitored the creek's water quality and have noted an improvement since Baker students began annual cleanups of the area in and around the stream.

Last year Penhollow's students planted 60 saplings on the district campus and this year he said there are plans to plant 60 more during Earth Week at the end of April.

Penhollow said his students also work on several oral presentations during the year to develop and sharpen their teamwork and presentation skills, as well as their ability to analyze data. Penhollow noted that they will need these skills in any career they choose.

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