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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gifted Workshops a 'Natural' Fit for Many Future College Students

Gifted Workshops a 'Natural' Fit for Many Future College Students

DuBOIS – Professionals with expertise in environmental and wildlife conservation are in high demand today, and a group of future college students got an up-close look at some career options in those fields at Penn State DuBois recently. More than 40 students from gifted programs at eight area school districts participated in a Gifted Workshop on campus. Open to middle school or high school students enrolled in a gifted program, the workshop was designed to introduce those bright students to educational opportunities that would get them working in careers related to environmental stewardship. To that end, faculty members from the campus' Wildlife Technology Program held sample classes and labs that provided hands-on lessons and field experience.

"Some of my students are involved in scouting, some are interested in outdoor experiences, and they were very interested in these programs. I could see some of them going into things like environmental engineering," said Della Kurtzhals, the gifted program coordinator at Clarion Area High School. "This shows them that they have good options for that education close to home."

In fact, the Wildlife Technology Degree is an option exclusive to DuBois, explained Admissions Counselor Holli Lashinsky. She said, "Wildlife Technology is unique to Penn State DuBois; we're the only campus in the Penn State system to offer it. The great thing about it is that we provide extensive lab and field experience, so students get hands-on learning opportunities."

Some of those hands-on experiences the students sampled included learning how to estimate the age of white-tailed deer by examining their jaws and teeth. This is information that wildlife professionals would use to manage a deer herd and its habitat.

They also had the opportunity to participate in placing leg bands on song birds, a tactic that professionals use to track movement and migration patterns. Additionally, students used radio-tracking equipment to locate radio collars hidden in a near-by forested area. This simulated the real-world work that experts do when tracking animals that have been tranquilized and equipped with radio collars. Once an animal is outfitted with a radio collar, they can be tracked using specialized radio equipment so that their migration patterns, feeding patterns, and more can be recorded. It's a technology that is used on everything from deer and elk, to bears, and even pheasants.

Overall, each of the activities represented the gathering of information that wildlife professionals use to manage animal populations and habitats in the wild, for the overall best quality of life for animals, people, and the environment.

"These workshops help students explore different opportunities that they may want to pursue in the future," Lashinsky said. "Or, it may introduce them to opportunities they never thought of before." She explained that many graduates of the Wildlife Technology Program go on to enjoy careers with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and numerous private organizations devoted to the study and preservation of wildlife and habitat.

The fact that workshops like this allow students to see the important work that happens behind the scenes, that they may not be aware of, is what makes them so valuable according to some educators. Anne Young, the secondary gifted program coordinator at DuBois Area High School said, "This allows the students to come to Penn State DuBois and see exactly what is offered, and to see what the classes and courses of study are like. It allows them to think about their options and their higher education early, and really get the ball rolling and start thinking about college."

In addition to gifted workshops, Wildlife Visitation Day is held three times each semester at Penn State DuBois. The day serves as an open house for the Wildlife Technology Program, where prospective students meet with program faculty members, tour campus, and receive enrollment and financial aid information. Wildlife Visitation Days are open to prospective students of any age, who want more information about the program and the careers for which it prepares graduates. For more information, call 814-375-4720, or visit

Photo: Left to right: Tanner Fell, an eighth grader at Cranberry Middle School, and Kiela Vinson, a seventh grader at Clarion Area Junior/Senior High School, use radio equipment during an exercise that simulated the tracking of animals fitted with radio collars. Tracking animals with the collars is one method experts use to manage animal populations.

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