Taking a canoe to class Environment: In a summer study project along two creeks in eastern Baltimore County, youngsters are learning about the delicate balance of nature.

July 19, 1996|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

This much 9-year-old Whitney Lhotsky knows: Waterborne turtles can mistake a clear plastic bag for a jellyfish, eat it and die.

"The plastic can get caught in its throat or stomach and kill the turtle. People shouldn't pollute like that," said the Oliver Beach Elementary School fifth-grader.

Such pearls of wisdom are being generated this week by a team of 20 eastern Baltimore County youngsters at the school. They are participating in an environmental summer-study project of nearby Dundee and Saltpeter creeks, important Chesapeake Bay tributaries where the county plans a 500-acre nature preserve and learning center.

Teachers Trena Hitzelberger and Sarah Dallas have given the children -- all considered above-average students with leadership potential -- opportunities in problem-solving, researching, writing and, yes, homework.

But who would mind all this if you could canoe, as the children did, to your living classroom? Or plant 200 American holly trees to prevent erosion along the creek banks?

Asked about her newly expanded interest in the environment, Karrianne Zito, 8, said, "My husky Roxie eats dog food at my house, but wild animals and birds eat plants and fish and other animals, so people shouldn't pollute. Everything is important -- the soil, water, plants, animals. We have to take better care of things or stuff is going to be messed up forever."

During the week, the children have welcomed as speakers county naturalists and representatives of the National Aquarium in Baltimore. A $1,000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust underwrote the cost of the trees, which, if they remain healthy, have a life expectancy of 200 years.

More than a century ago, a handful of America's elite, including President Benjamin Harrison and baseball legend Babe Ruth, frolicked with shotguns and champagne during hunting trips along the two bountiful bay tributaries.

Today, the land and water still abound with wildlife -- bald eagles, bass, ducks, heron and life-supporting insects and vegetation. In a few years, planners say, this still-pristine site will be transformed into a preserve to help youngsters and adults better understand nature's beauty and delicate balance.

As part of its Eastside revitalization, the county will build a sprawling park there, including a state-of-the-art nature learning center, a 50-foot observation tower, canoe docks, a model organic farm and seven miles of wooded trails.

And if educators, parks leaders and community residents have their way, students countywide will study wildlife and how each creature relates to the nearby rivers and bay.

Richard Fox, Oliver Beach's principal, said the students will follow up on their tree plantings during the school year. They also could share their knowledge with other students at the school.

"This hands-on experience is exciting for them and will elevate the understanding of the environment for their friends and families," Fox said.

Pub Date: 7/19/96

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