Lancaster County Youth Conservation School

Students participate in a stream restoration project during a past lesson taught as part of the Lancaster County Conservation District’s annual Lancaster County Youth Conservation School. The photo was shared by district officials ahead of the 2021 program, which is scheduled to run July 26 through 30. Eligible students can now apply for this year’s program. (Photo submitted by the Lancaster County Conservation District)

Hoping to inspire the next generation of conservationists, the Lancaster County Conservation District will continue a 43-year-old summer program designed to give local teens five days of environmental education.

This year the program will see a return to some in-person learning -- a change from 2020's entirely virtual experience, which was necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sallie Gregory, a conservation education coordinator with the district, encouraged teens interested in the outdoors to apply for the program, which is scheduled to run July 26 through 30. Applications can be found on the district website and are due June 23, according to a program announcement. The program has space for 25 students ages 14 to 16.

"A lot of programs probably could take hundreds of students, but having it as a class size really allows each student to be engaged," Gregory said, hopeful the engagement fostered by such a small class size will inspire teens to pursue related careers. "It's wonderful to see their interest kind of ignited."

Gregory shared photos from past years, which showed students participating in stream studies, stream restoration projects and box turtle research.

This year's topics include stream restoration, biodiversity, macroinvertebrates, forestry, canoeing and wildlife management, according to the announcement. Related field trips have been planned.

And because the program will follow a hybrid model, it also will feature virtual learning opportunities, including an online visit with Natalie Warren, one of the first two women to paddle the more than 2,000 miles from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay in 2011.

"Having the virtual option has allowed us to bring in some speakers and instructors that wouldn't be able to be at the school because of distance," Gregory said.

Students accepted to the program are responsible for a $25 registration fee, with all other costs covered by members of numerous local sportsmen's clubs that partnered with the district.

Officials have encouraged those with questions about the school to call the district at 717-299-5361, extension 5, or to visit lancasterconservation.org.

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