Hoosick Falls Outdoor Expo helps kids discover nature
HOOSICK FALLS -- Television and computers surround young individuals with virtual realities, but that's not so for Hoosick Falls Central School senior Bradley Foster, who spends much of his spare time hunting for duck and turkey.
"I like being outdoors. I'm not a video games kind of kid, I would rather be in the woods," Foster said.
Last year, Foster was approached by HFCS Superintendent Ken Facin to join the set-up committee for the expo to help get more children involved. The expo was held at the Hoosick Falls Armory on Church Street, which was closed to the public during the day Friday. About 600 Hoosick Falls Elementary and Middle School students and 200 Central School students in grades 9-12 were bused to the armory as part of their scheduled school day.
"The biggest part is that they don't know what they're missing," Foster said. "If they went out and did this stuff once, they'd be hooked. I went once and that's all it took."
Foster got many groups and outdoorsmen to set up displays and pushed products for Dakota Decoys and clothing for Drake Waterfall during the expo. He hopes to attend Paul Smith's College in the fall to study wildlife management.
Kids were able to sign up for a week-long trappers camp, New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation camp and hunter-safety courses.
"It doesn't make a difference whether kids want to hike, kayak, hunt, fish or trap. We just want to encourage kids to get outside," said P.J. Hyde, a representative for Region 4 of the New York Fish and Wildlife Board. "We try to give them as much information as we can and they can decide what they want to do."
Between Friday and Saturday after school hours, an additional 550 people came to the expo, according to Facin.
"What we find happens a lot is when the students come through and see all of this stuff during the day (they) like to bring their parents back to show them what they learned," Hyde said. "It's fun to watch."
Outdoor game and physical activity isn't for kids of every personality type, but retired Cambridge Central School Science Department Chair Howard Romack guaranteed there are fascinating things in nature that are fun for anyone to learn about.
Romack travels globally collecting specimens for scientists at Purnell, Yale and the New York State Museum. His expo display of reflective blue morphos, Hercules and Goliath beetles and large tropical scorpions helped kids understand the roles that insects have in ecology and complex food webs, and why those environments must be protected.
"What appeals to children the most is the fact that they think of insects as being the bugs they find in their houses, but when they come here they are fascinated by the incredible diversity of colors that insects that they've never seen before exhibit," Romack said.
Romack said teaching never stopped for him after he retired. He continues to do research and works with school groups in Cambridge Central School District and Hoosick Falls.
"It would be great if this outdoor expo were to be picked up and expanded to other areas," Romack said.
Contact Tom Momberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg
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