Virginia’s next generation of conservationists gather at Tech

AFP Correspondent

BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Virginia Association of Soil Water Conservation Districts recently hosted 55 high school students from across the state at its 38th annual Conservation Camps.
The camp on the Virginia Tech campus exposed the students from grades 9 through 12 to learning opportunities about Virginia’s natural resources.
Their teachers included conservation professionals and faculty from the university.
While many of the activities were on the Tech campus, the students got to visit sites around the New River Valley and learn first-hand about conservation or its need at special sites.
The youth who worked mostly out of doors during the week were so totally engaged in learning that they seemed totally unaware of what was going on around them as a photographer wandered about observing and photographing them.
On that occasion they were working with leeches taken from the waters of Tom’s Creek that flows through the university’s Kentland Farm into New River.
Other activities during the week included a visit to Claytor Lake State Park for a lake ecology Session, a study of fisheries management and a look at water quality.
They also worked in a forestry hike, stock fishing, swimming and a cookout.
During the week, they also visited Cascades, a waterfall in nearby Giles County; Kentland Farm, Tech’s major agricultural research facility; both the Dairy Science and Swine Centers and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on campus.
A field trip to Mountain Lake on the top of Salt Pond Mountain in Giles County and a canoe trip on the New River are all activities the young people are likely to remember.
Beth Sokolik explained that the camp is designed to give young people who are serious about conservation and may be interested in pursuing one of the many careers in the field information and hands-on experience in the field.
She said each of the participants in the annual camps is sponsored by one of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the state.
Most of the campers receive scholarships from their respective districts, Sokolik reported.
The seven-day camp traditionally occurs during the third week of July, she said.
Youth who want to attend the camp next year should apply to their local Soil and Water Conservation District.
Like the students this year they will have the opportunity to learn first-hand about such things as forestry and wildlife issues, turf grass management, soils, geology, water quality and environment, stream morphology and much more.