Getting Hands On with Nature Through After-School Environmental Program
This fall, the MHS Environmental Center led a Middle Division after-school activity program called the AEE Sampler. The goal was to provide hands-on, highly-engaging activities that allowed middle school students to experience the variety of programming offered in the Agriculture and Environmental Education Department.
Students participated in exciting activities such as:
- Harvesting apples and pumpkins from on-campus orchards and making apple cider
- Learning about and handling reptiles and amphibians at the Environmental Center
- Potting plants and making flower arrangements in the Horticulture Center
- Milking goats and helping care for small mammals, beef cows, and sheep at the Animal Center
- Grooming and riding horses at one of the campus barns
- Studying and engaging with collections and artifacts of PA wildlife at the Environmental Center
- Exploring wild areas around MHS properties
The after-school AEE Sampler program gave students a taste of the opportunities available when they reach Senior Division. Many high school students who are members of AEE clubs and internship programs have gone through the AEE Sampler as a middle school student. This brief but enriching sampler program adds depth, richness, and meaning to students’ lives and often builds a lifelong interest in nature.
The Environmental Center also helped facilitate the Nature Explorers after-school program this fall. Because there are forested hillsides with streams running along the bottom of many new student homes being built on Legacy Campus, this program was focused on creating and maintaining nature trails. These trails provide access and opportunities for on-campus hiking, stream play, and even evening campfires.
After multiple after-school sessions and the work of summer Environmental Center interns, the trails are well-marked and include multiple fire pits and seating locations, rope swings, special bridges, and more. This fall, the Nature Explorers group lined trail sections with logs, created a fun tunnel area where trees had fallen across the trail, and installed log steps on steep sections.
In the midst of students’ hard work, there was also plenty of time for play. Many of the students relished taking their shoes off to get into the stream and finding nature artifacts to take home. During one afternoon in particular, we came across a patch of Jewelweed—MHS students experienced the excitement of squeezing the seed pods and causing the seeds to fly out!
While each AEE sampler session is different, every day ends with students experiencing the soothing effects of nature and the satisfaction of making a noticeable contribution to campus trails.