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BOCES science lessons get students out of the classroom, into the field

Baker High School senior Todd Lowe measures a plot of ground that will be the site of a plant inventory. Lowe is a student in the BOCES New Visions in Animal and Environmental Science class at Beaver Lake Nature Center.

Baker High School senior Todd Lowe measures a plot of ground that will be the site of a plant inventory. Lowe is a student in the BOCES New Visions in Animal and Environmental Science class at Beaver Lake Nature Center.

— Central New York high school students interested in exploring science careers have an opportunity to step outside and do some hands-on learning through the New Vision Animal and Environmental Science class.

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Baker High School seniors Ben Trowbridge, left, and Tim Yeatts work on a plant inventory lesson with Brandon Murphy, a project coordinator with ESF Outreach.

Offered by Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES and located at Beaver lake Nature Center, the New Vision class allows students to learn in the outdoors while earning up to six credits from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

“This is a wonderful educational experience. It’s how education should be. It’s interdisciplinary, there’s a small class and students get complete immersion in the program,” said Cheryl Spada, an ESF alumna who teaches the class. “The students get a lot out of it even if they go into another kind of career entirely.”

Spada leads daily lessons at the 600-acre Beaver Lake facility near Baldwinsville. Students spend the morning learning about such topics as land use, policy development, forestry, fish and wildlife, and alternative and renewable resources. ESF faculty and staff members frequently participate as guest lecturers.

The students take both ESF’s global environment and writing and the environment courses and return to their home high schools for lunch and afternoon classes.

“The program offers some career exploration for students who don’t necessarily want to sit in the classroom every day,” said Brandon Murphy, a project coordinator with ESF Outreach, who recently led the students into the woods for a lesson on how to inventory plants. “They want to get out in the field and do some things.”

“I’m doing this because I want to go to ESF,” said Todd Lowe, a senior at Baker High School in Baldwinsville. “Plus, it’s more hands-on learning. Out here we learn something and then we apply it really quick. Like with tree identification, we were outside with our notes examining trees as we were learning about them.”

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