PLATTSBURGH Clinton County Fairgrounds was a busy place on Sept. 19 as area sixth graders gathered to take part in Cornell Cooperative Extension's Environmental Awareness Field Day. A hundred and sixty students from Beekmantown, a hundred and forty from Saranac, twenty-five from Seton Academy, and five North Country home-schoolers rotated between twelve stations, learning from volunteer instructors who were experts in their respective fields. Maple syrup experts Pat and Earl Parker, who operate the Parker Family Maple Farm in West Chazy and has been family owned and operated since 1889, shared their knowledge with the youths. The Parkers highlighted some of the aspects of their operation, such as the fact they use a hundred miles of tubing on their farm to collect sap from 20,000 maple trees. The Parkers also conserve energy by utilizing a reverse osmosis machine, which reduces time the sap has to boil in the evaporator. The students also enjoyed looking at artifacts from the early years of maple-syrup operation, and sampling Parker brand maple syrup.
Poet and storyteller Jeff Cochran led his audience through poems and songs with motions to help them remember the basics of tree biology, such as the life cycle of a tree. His station was titled Tree Dancing.
Master gardeners John and Shirley Beauharnois taught the children about the propagation of seeds. A picnic table covered with a variety of wild and garden plants provided many object lessons, including the story of how the burdock plant inspired a man to invent Velcro.
Cornell Cooperative Extension's new dairy educator, Blake Putnam, showed the students a tableful of products some never would have guessed contained ingredients from dairy cows. She also gave them a fun-facts quiz about dairy cows that contained some more surprising dairy facts.
Gary Frenia, retired environmental manager from Georgia Pacific, and Robert Jock, current environmental manager, taught the children about paper making and forestry. Each student had the opportunity to make a small piece of paper.