OWASCO — For Pat Burke, speaking to children about nature is one thing, but he believes students getting the opportunity to see, touch and experience it themselves is another matter entirely.
Burke, an environmental educator with the Baltimore Woods Nature Center, said he believes events such as the 2018 Cayuga County Conservation Field Days at Emerson Park in Owasco can help experiences with nature feel more real. Burke and others spoke to Owasco Elementary School students during a presentation on the differences between carnivores, herbivores and omnivores at the field days. Holding a replica skull, Burke showed students the skull's teeth — both long teeth for tearing through meat and flat molars suitable for grinding. He said that skull belonged to an omnivore, and later said it was meant to be a black bear's skull.
"We're trying to make them better stewards of nature," Burke said.
Various schools from across the county learned about a range of subjects Tuesday such as bats, ducks, nutrition cycles and the difference between conservation and preservation from a variety of presenters. Valerie Horning, conservation district technician with Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District — which hosted the event — said that while students may see the event as a simple field trip away from schools, students can learn about a range of topics through the event.
The program, which continues Wednesday, draws about 700 students.
She said she believes the field days have been going on for around 25 years and noted people who are now employees with the conservation district attended the field days as students.
Southern Cayuga Central School District math teacher Julia Dunsmoor said information students receive at the event can be connected to other subjects. She said her students talked about how many gallons of water someone uses while showing, for example. She said many of her students already do activities such as fishing, so those things can be used to lead children into learning other subjects related to nature they might be interested in.
"It really connects to them," Dunsmoor said.