Mr. White’s school term ends naturally

After 34 years at the Tayamensatachta Environmental Center, Charles White will retire from the Greencastle-Antrim School District in August.

A Tayamentasachta era will end Aug. 5, the day the Greencastle-Antrim School District's first environmental education teacher retires. Charles White has spent his entire career, over 34 years, at the environmental center. His classroom was not a square room with 25 students watching him from individual desks. It was a garden, a barn, a pond with a spring house, a walnut grove or a trail through the woods. It was an old farmhouse, a new longhouse, fields and nurseries.

White came to the Center for Environmental Studies in January 1976, when the 35-acre property had belonged to the district for just 10 years. He carried forth the vision of former middle school principal Fred Kaley, who pushed the administration to preserve and utilize the 1820s farm next to the primary and elementary schools.

White fell into his forte'. A 1974 graduate of Shippensburg State College, with a secondary biology degree, and K-12 environmental education degree, he took the reins and ran with them.

"I was allowed to develop my programs," he said. "I was told to get teachers and students over here."

He certainly did. That first year he tallied 600 student visits. His last year it was 12,000.

He concentrated on the youngest students in the district, formulating educational programs appropriate for the age groups. The kindergartners became Earthseekers, exploring Mother Nature with the five senses. In first-grade it was "Whoo Takes Care of the Earth?" using OWL the puppet. Second-graders experienced Earth Encounters, learning how all parts of the outdoor world were interconnected. In third-grade students studied large and small communities to understand "The Earth: Whose Home?"

By fourth-grade students were entrusted to be Earth Caretakers, understanding a person's role in responding to the natural world. As an Earthkeeper in fifth-grade, they earned keys by mastering ecological concepts. Sixth-graders completed the series with "Discover the Earth" over three seasons.

White provided many other lessons to increase awareness of the outdoors, from tapping maple trees to planting flowers and vegetables, to composting. He also worked with secondary students and their teachers and supervised high school interns.

He noted the students enjoyed their visits to the center. "Kids are excited. They respect and understand this is a learning facility."

Eventually, he saw some old faces in new settings. "The years went by very quickly. Some of the teachers now used to be my students."

During his tenure White also welcomed the presence of Greencastle and Antrim Township citizens as they participated in activities at Tayamentasachta. "I'm proud of this whole place and the involvement of the community. The Apple Festival has been an amazing event for 29 years."

Initially hired under a Comprehensive Training and Employment Act, White was quick to appreciate similar programs which benefitted the school district. Through the years Pennsylvania Conservation Corp grants and other job training services worth $1.5 million resulted in a modern classroom, a solar greenhouse and other amenities to enhance the 'school farm'. He took advantage of them in his curriculum, and also in workshops for the public, covering topics such as gardening, birdwatching and alternative energy.

Outside of his teaching duties, White has also been a member of the Advisory Committee, active in creating and achieving short and long-term goals for the center.

Stepping aside at age 58, White won't be going indoors any time soon. His wife Kathryn is retiring from Faust Junior High in Chambersburg at the same time. The parents of two daughters, they will travel. White also plans to garden, hike, bike, kayak, and perform community service. It's all an extension of his career.

"I loved working with kids, watching them get excited about the out-of-doors."