Penn State DuBois wildlife students lead 'Walk in Penn's Woods'

Lecturer in Forestry Mike Eckley, at center, organized the Walk in Penn’s Woods event at Camp Mountain Run.

Lecturer in Forestry Mike Eckley, at center, organized the Walk in Penn’s Woods event at Camp Mountain Run.

Credit: Penn State

DuBOIS, Pa. — Students in Penn State DuBois' Wildlife Technology program led the 2021 “Walk in Penn’s Woods” on a Sunday in October at the historic Camp Mountain Run Boy Scout camp near Penfield, Pennsylvania. Open to the public, the event was intended to inspire participants to take more time to enjoy the outdoors.

An introduction to tree identification was offered by students, with approximately 25 species of woody plants, including a combination of native and nonnative trees, shrubs and vines, observed during the 2-mile hike.

Not only did participants have the opportunity to learn about plant species that could exist right in their own backyard, but Penn State DuBois Wildlife Technology students also got to exercise some of the skills they’ll use in their careers in wildlife conservation, environmental conservation and more.

“As a new instructor, I embrace scenario-based learning approaches,” said Penn State DuBois Lecturer in Forestry Mike Eckley. “Leveraging an existing statewide initiative like the ‘Walk in Penn’s Woods’ and exposing students to the process of preparing for and executing a custom outdoor educational and recreational event where they have to perform as individuals and as a team is well aligned with what they can expect to face in today’s natural resource management profession. I was truly inspired by the support of cooperators in the local Boy Scout Council and DCNR Bureau of Forestry, along with the participating community members that collectively resulted in more than 50 people being in attendance.”

“I think these applied, real-life activities are very important for keeping students engaged,” added Associate Teaching Professor of Wildlife Technology Keely Roen. “However, something that requires students to teach members of the public takes it a step further. They will never forget the trees they introduced — there is no better way to learn something than to teach it. There were participants from all ages that had a diversity of backgrounds and outdoor experiences. I hope that Mike continues to coordinate a similar educational hike with DCNR for his students.  These activities require a tremendous amount of time and preparation, but students really think they are worth it.”

This was one of the various sites across the state where Pennsylvanians of all ages had the opportunity to participate in Walk in Penn’s Woods by getting out and building appreciation for the forest, the people who own them, and the importance of caring for them.

In 2017, the “Walk in Penn’s Woods” was established as an opportunity for Pennsylvanians to join hosted walks to learn more about Penn’s Woods and gain easy access to expert forest and wildlife professionals. The 2021 “Walk in Penn’s Woods” organizing partners include the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, Penn State Forestry and Wildlife Extension, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Forest Stewards, the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Association of Consulting Foresters, and the Pennsylvania Sustainable Forestry Initiative.