Students from a dozen different schools across Central New York were on the campus of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) June 1 for the 2010 ESF Environmental Summit.
The students are all enrolled in the College's ESF in the High School global environment course, which allows students to experience college-level coursework while still in high school. During the Environmental Summit, students presented their semester-long research projects on such topics as "Wind farms and the environment, "The effects of rainwater harvesting," and "Investigating improved fuel efficiency through the use of bio-firing cook stoves."
The projects enabled the students to engage not only in the knowledge but the process of science.
Megan Wolfe, a teacher from Westhill High School, brought 21 students to the summit. The students' skills for gathering information, working with data and then presenting it to their peers has greatly increased, she said. "I don't know if they even know how far they've come but they're going to be light years ahead of everyone else" as they continue they education, she said.
The Environmental Summit is the culminating event of the ESF in the High School program, said Dr. Richard E. Beal, associate director for educational outreach at ESF. "Students take college courses in their own high school and part of the program includes a year-long research project with a presentation at the summit."
Students looked at a variety of topics, from recycling to acid rain, and the effects of development on wildlife to how practices in their own high schools affect the environment.
Laura Labarge, a junior at Westhill High School, looked at the effects of housing developments in the Onondaga Hill area west of Syracuse and how they impact edge species such as white-tailed deer and northeastern coyotes.
"We studies the rate of development and certain things about these species and we found that they live on the borders of forests and the increased development actually increases fragmentation of these areas so their populations might eventually increase," she said.
Labarge also said she hopes to attend ESF after high school.
Charmaine Lilly from Fowler High School presented "Tons served, billions wasted" which looked at the carbon footprint of McDonald's and how the restaurant chain can reduce its carbon footprint. Lilly discovered if McDonald's practiced recycling it would decrease the amount of trash it sends to landfills and in turn reduce the amount of methane and carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.
Lilly said she learned an important lesson from her research: "The small changes can make a big impact."
The research carried out by the students was supported by the ESF Science Corps, which consists of ESF graduate students who visit schools to bring in cutting-edge ESF research and to help students conduct their own research projects.
High schools participating in the Environmental Summit were Chittenango, LaFayette, Henninger, East Syracuse-Minoa, Fabius-Pompey, Nottingham, Fowler, Corcoran, Paul V. Moore, Solvay, West Hill, and Liverpool.
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