Sycamore Shoals Camp teaches conservation of natural resources

By Bob Robinson


   More than 800 fourth grade students from Carter, Johnson and Unicoi counties attended a conservation camp, ending today, at Sycamore Shoals State Park to learn about stewardship of natural resources.
   Students visit 17 outdoor stations staffed by volunteers and agency professionals to learn about:
   * Early Settlement: Herb Roberts of Sycamore Shoals State Park described life on the frontier when this area was Western North Carolina.
   Dressed in 18th century period clothing, Roberts gave details of the early Watauga Settlement, Transylvania Purchase, Fort Watauga and the Battle of King's Mountain. He also discussed the role of the longhunter and the backwoods Militia and gave a demonstration on how to use a black powder rifle.
   * Watersheds and the Water Cycle: Dave Merinar and Russell Kinser discussed the source of water, where it goes when it is used and how to protect it. They also demonstrated how rivers are formed and showed aerial photos of various watersheds.
   * Forest Fire Prevention: Watauga Ranger District Staff of the U.S. Forest Service discussed impact of litter, pollution and wildfires on National Forests and the habitat. They also explained how forests are a renewable and sustainable resource.
   * Surveying Instruments: Daymond Broyles and Anna Moore of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Washington County Soil Conservation District had a hands-on demonstration of surveying instruments in use today.
   * Wildlife and Skulls: Pat Dobes, a Carter County 4-H Volunteer, exhibited actual animal skulls to show different types of teeth, jaws and bone structures of Herbivores (feeds on plants), Omnivores (feeds on animals and plants) and Carnivores (feeds on animals).
   * Wildlife Habitat: Mary Silver of Tennessee State Parks, Warriors State Park, explained the role wildlife creatures play in their habitat.
   * EnviroShopping: Joseph Kabli, Christie Wilson, Norma Henderson and Trenna Brown of Appalachia CARES/AmeriCorps explained how to make wise environmental choices while shopping in local stores.
   * Nature Crafts: Joseph Kabli, Christie Wilson, Norma Henderson and Trenna Brown of Appalachia CARES/AmeriCorps demonstrated crafts with 90 percent from natural resources.
   * Water Pollution and Benthic (bottom dwellers) Macroinvertebrates (Mayflies): Tina Robinson of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation described various sources of water pollution and impact on health of a stream. The health of a stream is determined by evaluating the insect life of a stream.
   * Water Quality: Anne Patrick and Konnie Lewis of the Tennessee Valley Authority explained how everyday activities impact rivers and the environment.
   * Birds in East Tennessee: Brad Jones of Winged Deer Park, City of Johnson City Parks and Recreation, discussed use of binoculars, and spotting scopes, proper field dress, field guides and listening techniques for bird identification. Common birds in the area were also described.
   * Soil Science: Nathan Hartgrove of Natural Resources Conservation explained the importance of soils to the ecosystem with emphasis on soil conservation. He also described the importance of soils to plants and animals, the water cycle and a clean and healthy environment.
   * How Agriculture Makes Life Possible: Jim Bell of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, Tennessee Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, explained how agricultural products are used to make many of the things, such as food, clothing and shelter, needed every day.
   * Oh...To Be a Tree Factory: Marian Rami and Dwana Doane of the Girl Scouts of Appalachian Council acted out parts of a tree in a skit.
   * Tree Identification: Steve Woody and Randy Ellis of Tennessee Division of Forestry described how to identify different types of trees by their barks and leaves.
   * Trout Fishing in Tennessee: David Lane of Erwin State Fish Hatchery, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, described the trout stocking program in East Tennessee and three species of trout (rainbow, brown and brook). He also explained the need for clean, cool water, coupled with adequate dissolved oxygen and suitable water supply, all vital to trout's survival.
   * Origin and Development of Caves: Bob Joyner of Appalachian Caverns Foundation explained how caves are formed and their importance to the environment. He also described conservation of caves, karst (limestone formations) and groundwater.
   Conservation Camp is organized by the Appalachian Rural Conservation and Development Council with special assistance from Alcoa Engineering Products; Alcoa Foundation in Elizabethton; Carter, Johnson and Unicoi County Soil Conservation Districts; U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service; Tennessee Valley Authority; Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area; Tennessee Nature Conservancy; Unicoi County Farm Bureau; Tennessee Division of Forestry; N&N Ball and Roller; and, Shady Valley Ruritan Club.