Mineville An independent field biology study turned out to be especially fruitful for both teacher and student.
Every week since January 2011, Westport ninth-grader Peter Hartwell and mentor David Thomas Train have been exploring the Champlain Area Trails along shoreline, streams, wetlands, and woods near Westport. Those explorations prompted them to enter the Champlain Area Trails Travel Writing Contest.
Hartwell attends the Champlain Valley Educational Services Special Education program in Mineville. To supplement the Mineville curriculum, Hartwell studies several subjects privately—including field biology with Thomas Train.
“Peter and I spend time together every Wednesday after school in outdoor science explorations, and we wanted to share what we do and see,” Thomas Train explained. “He is an avid outdoors explorer, with great observation and drawing skills.”
And Thomas Train is certainly no stranger to the trails of the Champlain Valley. He is the guidebook author for the ADK Guide To The Eastern Region.
“I know the CATS trails well and am excited every time a new one is developed, more open space is protected, and I have a new place to explore!” Thomas Train said.
Their jointly written essay, titled “Wildlife, Connected In and Out of Town,” earned them the first-place prize of $500.
“CATS introduces people to the richness of the natural world in the Champlain Valley, and David and Peter’s essay does the same,” noted contest judge Phil Brown, who is editor of the Adirondack Explorer.
“I was especially impressed by the variety of their field observations—the number of species, or their signs, encountered—and by the detailed descriptions of what they saw,” Brown said. “David and Peter make us realize that we are surrounded by fascinating wildlife and that we can learn much about our wild neighbors if we just pay attention. The authors also uncover on their outings evidence of the Champlain Valley’s long human history. As they say, ‘It’s a lively neighborhood for all who walk, hop, paddle, fly, crawl, swim, bound, run, waddle, slither, or put out seeds.’”