Thank you, young conservationists!

With passion anything is possible. No matter your age, anyone can make a difference in their community. The 5th grade gifted classes at Dallas Intermediate School exemplifies such acts of passion in Earth conservation. When asked why conservation is so important, students were eager to answer. Owen Casey Williams said, “Conservation is important to me because we live in a world where lots of harmful gases and chemicals go into our air and water and I want to help put an end to it, or at least reduce it.” Echoing this sentiment was Gabe Caleb, stating conservation “allows land that would otherwise be destroyed to get saved and be protected for the future.” Emily Miller emphasized the importance of conservation by stating the harsh reality that “if the land dies, we die.” Jaxon Yefko added, “the world won’t live much longer if we don’t do anything.” Such devotion and passion led this 5th grade class to become North Branch Land Trust’s youngest supporters.

This marvelous accomplishment could not have been made possible without Mrs. Deborah Pike, educator at Dallas Intermediate School, and her classroom aide Mrs. Nancy Krasniak. Mrs. Pike has been teaching the importance of Earth Conservation to Dallas youth for 15 years. With the impacts of climate change becoming more prevalent, she saw a desperate need for action and created engaging programs, such as Climate Captains, that allow students to become advocates for the Earth and conservation. The goal of their team’s campaign is to inform the community about the environment and what we can do to help it. The program gives students the opportunity to protect biodiversity, minimize waste in our community, and protect land.

The class has done multiple projects that include tending to last year’s 5th grade class’s butterfly garden and participating in the UNLESS project sponsored by the Philadelphia Zoo and Albert M. Greenfield Foundation. Mrs. Pike shared that the project “has been the impetus for my students’ project and our passion for the environment. Their hard work has truly embodied the contest quote, “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not (Dr. Suess, The Lorax).”

The project was a great opportunity to go in-depth about the importance of conservation, Molly Loftus appreciates the opportunity, stating “I learned the importance about conservation when we started the UNLESS project. I learned a lot about conservation that I didn’t know before.” Henry Raub first learned about conservation in Mrs. Pike’s 3rd grade class, this project allowed him to continue his journey in protecting the earth, explaining his goal is for “everyone to be able to see and feel what we can today.”

This year the students have focused on protecting animals and waste reduction. Students successfully saved more than 154 lbs. of waste from entering our landfills! They were also able to create educational newsletters for peers, hosted a door decorating fundraiser, adopted a lion from the Philadelphia Zoo and are currently in the process of building an outdoor library.

It was during an informative zoo visit that explained the importance of habit protection which inspired the class to research and find a local organization that supports such a mission. They found the North Branch Land Trust, with a mission “to conserve the natural, working and scenic landscapes in Northeastern Pennsylvania that enrich our lives.” Logan Brown explained North Branch was the perfect choice, “The world is starting to develop more and more industrially and North Branch Land Trust conserves land so it’s protected.”

The class chose to use their fundraising to wholeheartedly donate to the Land Trust to continue to help reduce habit loss and protect nature as nature holds a special place in many of the students’ hearts. Nick Federici explains, “My favorite things about nature is the woods, I like to go and run around and play in the woods. I also like to play baseball in the grass.” Arushi Kishore shares similar fondness saying “My favorite things about nature is seeing all of the beautiful plants, and flowers. I also love to go on walks and breath the fresh air.”

The program has not only created Earth awareness and acts of conservation but also allowed for students to grow as individuals. Many students have learned that they would like a future working in conservation when they get older. When asked “Do you see yourself in conservation when you get older?”  Molly Knight passionately stated “Yes, in gardening and making pollinator gardens because nature is an important part of my life.” Kenzie Kutch explains she can also see herself as a future conservationist, stating “I would like to work as an environmental education specialist because I would be able to teach many people about the benefits of things like conservation.” Minka Udomsak knows how important conservation now and in the future will be, sharing “In the future life will need conservation more than ever, conservation can save lives.”

Some students have other career plans but will always have a love for nature. Doug Roberts loves the fresh air, animals and trees but says his career goals are to play professional football explaining, “I love football so much and I want to earn a lot of money to help my family since my sister wants to start a bakery when she gets older.” Although he wants to be a dentist, Roman Elbattah has a passion and love of geology, explaining his favorite part of nature is “uncovering rocks and fossils.”

Mrs. Pike could not be prouder of her students’ accomplishments and growth saying “I am incredibly proud of the way my students worked together. They found their strengths and talents and each one used them for the benefit of the whole group and the project at large. They brainstormed, debated, focused, shared, listened, and worked together cooperatively to make their goals a reality.”

North Branch Land Trust is able to continue conserving the natural, working and scenic landscapes in Northeastern Pennsylvania that enrich our lives through member support.