Tayamentasachta gets a helping hand from DEP, FCCTC students
When she was in elementary school, Faith Pearce loved the quiet spots at Tayamentasachta, where students would sit and write about what they could see, hear and smell.
It’s anything but quiet these day with the sound of hammers echoing through the walnut grove at the Greencastle-Antrim School District’s environmental center.
Pearce, a G-A High School junior and the only girl in the building construction trades program at Franklin County Career and Technology Center, is the student leader for the replacement of the roof on the environmental center pavilion being done now. She’s working alongside instructor Eric Wagaman, an award-winning FCCTC teacher with ties to Tayamentasachta.
Pearce and Wagaman will return to Tayamentasachta next year when FCCTC students help convert the springhouse by the duck pond into a multi-use building thanks to a $12,368 environmental education grant awarded to the district by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Stewards of the environment
Spending time at Tayamentasachta is a highlight for G-A students of all ages.
“They’re fully engaged … smiling and loving it, no matter what’s going on in the classroom or at home,” Kerri Barnes, director of the environmental center, said when the DEP grant was presented on April 21.
Barnes believes she has one of the best teaching jobs in the country and wants to get kids passionate about being stewards of the environment. But she’s just one person and can only be with one class at one place at one time.
The renovation of the springhouse will open the doors for more on-site educational opportunities in a building equipped with science lab tables, microscopes, field guides and binoculars. Barnes will provide lesson plans, and classroom teachers K-12 will be able to sign up to bring their students to the lab.
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Situated next to the natural spring and the duck pond, it is the perfect location for water quality and climate change studies.
Improving and protecting the water, land and air of Pennsylvania is the purpose of DEP grants, according to Rod Nesmith, southcentral region director. Five percent of the fines collected by DEP for pollution and other violations is earmarked for the education grants established under the Environmental Education Act of 1993. Over the years, grants totaling $12.3 million have been awarded statewide.
Tayamentasachta is one of 63 recipients of grants totaling nearly $633,000 this year. The projects address water, climate change and/or environmental justice, provide opportunities to expand the public’s understanding of Pennsylvania’s environmental issues and develop skills required to make informed decisions, according to Kathleen Banski, project adviser for the DEP grant program.
The Greencastle-Antrim science lab is a project “that provides hands-on learning opportunities, and guides student-driven actions addressing water quality and climate change,” Nesmith said. “This grant will help educate students, make them better informed and better prepared to deal with environmental issues facing us today, and tomorrow.”
Both DEP representatives used the word “inspiring” to describe their visit to Tayamentasachta and Nesmith asked, “Can I be a student?”
Learning by doing
Earthkeepers, a program for fifth-grade students who earn KEYS, also made a lasting impression on Pearce. During three days of winter environmental education, they earn the “K” of knowledge and the “E” of experience, according to Barnes. Afterward, the youngsters work on yourself for “Y” and sharing for “S.”
Pearce, daughter of Jennifer and Thomas Pearce, is using her knowledge and experience as she guides about two dozen fellow students in the roofing project.
“This is one of the best opportunities I’ve had and I’m happy to help Mrs. Barnes,” said Pearce, who learned love construction, the smell of wood and working with her hands from her father and uncle Christopher Miller. She wants to go into architectural and interior design.
As student leader, she is “coordinating who’s going to do what, where” and assigned tasks based on experience, from pulling nails to working up on the roof. She got a real-life lesson when she learned the arrival of lumber for the project would be delayed for two weeks because of the supply chain.
That news came from Lumber Direct of Greencastle, which is providing the wood at half price. The lumber will be covered with metal donated by Martin’s Roofing LLC of Shippensburg, according to Wagaman.
Wagaman was a winner of the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence and that linked him and his students to other opportunities, including a $5,000 grant for the pavilion project.
The pavilion is about 60 feet long, so it is a big project for the construction students who are more accustomed to building 16-foot sheds.
“It’s so impressive to see young people so motivated … and to see what they can do when they put their phones away,” Wagaman said.
Wagaman’s no stranger to what young people can accomplish at Tayamentasachta. He was the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps crew leader at the center for five years in the early 2000s.
Among the projects completed by the team of young adults was the construction of the springhouse. Built of limestones they pulled from a barn on the Mountainview Reclamation property at Upton, it replaced a springhouse on the site that was torn down in the 1960s.
For many years the springhouse was used regularly as a blacksmith shop, but now the forge is only fired up twice a year — for the eighth-graders’ Cumberland Life Festival and the Apple Festival, according to Barnes. The blacksmith equipment will still be available for those events.
In the fall for the transformation of the springhouse, FCCTC students will build lab tables, relocate the chimney and replace the wood-shingled roof with metal to match the farmhouse and the pavilion.
Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org