Tayamentasachta needs some TLC

Last school year intern Ema Bobbitt and director Kerri Barnes were on top of daily operations at Tayamentasachta, the school district’s environmental center.

Tayamentasachta, a Center for Environmental Studies, wouldn't be quite the same without the 1820s farmhouse on the 35-acre site. The center is adjacent to the Greencastle-Antrim elementary and primary schools. It has been an outdoor classroom, with indoor alternatives, since 1971. The transformation of a neglected farm occurred because of the vision of one man and the support of hundreds. As a result, thousands of students and members of the community have benefited from the goal first established by Fred C. Kaley, to use the property for ecology education.

Now the old mansion has seen its day, but the Advisory Committee hopes people still believe in the value of Tayamentasachta for the G-A school district and area citizens.

"This place, unfortunately, is in need of major renovations," said director Kerri Barnes. A full-time teacher, she holds programs for students in grades kindergarten through six, and is available for secondary events as well. She works with district teachers to conduct learning activities that enhance the science, math, reading, social studies and other curriculums.

While many events occur outdoors, the farmhouse is a popular setting for lessons too, since it has running water, a kitchen and bathrooms. However, the building cannot be used to maximum capacity because of age-related problems.

"The porch is falling apart," Barnes continued. "It needs new windows for energy efficiency. Lead paint has to be taken off the walls before we can get any more grants from the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps. We're sitting in limbo."

An estimate of $60,000 was received by the school board for a lead removal plan. The PCC has sent laborers frequently to make improvements to the facility, such as constructing the classroom building, a pole barn, ADA-compliant outdoor bathrooms, a compost site, an observation deck, stairs, stream bed restoration and more. It is not allowed into the house to update the windows, though, until the lead is gone.

Barnes said the paint is not a health concern since it is not flaking and no one is eating it, but it is at the top of the list of urgent needs.

"This place is used so much. It's a revolving door with classes and community visits. People are here every day of the school year. Tayamentasachta is more than a pretty backdrop for pictures."

The pond and wooded areas are popular for homecoming, Prom and other photo sessions.

Barnes and high school intern Ema Bobbitt spruced up the interior of the house to show off its inate glory. They scrubbed the floors, woodwork and furniture during bouts of inspiration. The office upstairs is on the more modern side of the house. The initial log cabin of Jacob P. Stover was added onto in the 1840s. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The house also has two museum rooms, a work room, five classrooms and a storage area.

The advisory committee is made up of active and retired teachers, administrators, and school board and community members. It meets the third Tuesday every other month. The public is welcome to share ideas on how to fund repairs to the hub of the environmental center.

A rich history

Tayamentasachta was featured in a 1971 edition of Pennsylvania Education, published by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. It traced the history of the center once G-ASD obtained 60 acres in 1966 for a new high school complex. At the east end of the property was land almost ignored and headed for the auction block. At that time, the old Winger farm didn't attract much attention. The spring, called 'living waters' by the Delaware Indians, was a debris-filled mud hole and all the farm buildings were in disrepair. The large barn with Flemish bond brickwork was in poor condition, though structurally sound, the newsletter reported. Woods near the spring were used as a dump.

Then physical education teacher and recreation coordinator Kaley eyed the area closely and realized if it was important to the Indians, it probably had educational value to students too. He got superintendent William Conrad and business manager Eldon Coldsmith on board. A campaign began to restore the farm. Children were the first in line to help.

"The learning experience was extremely valuable. Students know that abusing the environment is relatively easy, but cleaning up a mess is a far more difficult and expensive task," Kaley was quoted.

With efforts of adults as well, truckloads of trash were hauled away, the pond was dredged of 50 tons of muck, a crumbling springhouse was dismantled, the barn and house were fixed up, and a wall was installed around the pond.

By 1971 Tayamentasachta was seen as a forested ecological center with a trout farm and a natural pond. It had a nursery plot and plantation of 1,000 walnut trees, planted by Gerald Reichard's vocational agricultural students. Thirty acres were farmed using both colonial and modern methods. An archaeology/history study began after Thomas Shook plowed up the fields, yielding arrowheads and old artifacts.

Conrad said the center was valuable for students and the greater community. "This effort, we hope, will demonstrate what can be done on a local level to effectively help students learn the importance of ecology."

And while Kaley noted the center preceded the environmental push of Earth Day, it could be that today Tayamentasachta provides opportunity to participate in the  'go green' movement.

Members of the Environmental Center Advisory Committee are: Barnes, Alex Reed, Charles White, Cheryl Shields, Denise Gleichman, Ed Beard, Ellen Kirkner, Jill Gilbert, John Rishel, Karin Johnson, Karl Flemming, Kevin Traynor, Lois Collingwood, Marg Stouffer, Mary Lou Pool, Mike Still, Patricia Esquer, Scott Diffenderfer, Susan Bell and Zeke Flores.