BPHS students explore Adirondack region through elective courses

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The following feature story was written by senior Carley Nolan, who is completing a year-long internship in the district communications office.

Over the past two years, Broadalbin-Perth has introduced two electives designed to help high school students learn more about the Adirondack Park: Adirondack Sciences, which is co-taught by Brian Henry and Rick Snyder, and Adirondack Humanities, which is co-taught by Daniel Simonds and Anthony Mucilli.

Adirondack Humanities

Simonds and Mucilli combined their respective expertise in English language arts, history and geography to develop the Adirondack Humanities curriculum. They say that their goal is to expand the students’ knowledge of the environment that surrounds them everyday through experiences inside and outside the classroom.

According to Mucilli, this course is a way for juniors and seniors to prepare for learning in a college setting because it is a new model of teaching. Most classes at BPHS are taught by a single teacher, and classes rarely spend any time outside, so this class offers students a chance to expand their horizons.

Although Broadalbin-Perth is situated at the “Gateway to the Adirondacks,” Mucilli said it’s surprising how little students actually know about the area.

“Our goal is to open up students to more things in the Adirondack Park that they may not have been familiar with when they entered the class,” Mucilli said.

Earlier in the year, students in the class read the novel “Adirondack Sundown” by local author Heidi Sprouse. Afterward, they had the opportunity to meet Sprouse and visit some of the Adirondack locations from her book (see photos, above). Through this activity, students were able to gather more information about the Adirondacks and connect their knowledge to literature through a real-life experience.

On Feb. 16, Mucilli and Simonds took their class to Lake Placid, where students learned about the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games and the impact the games had on Upstate New York (see photos, above). They’re also planning trips to several museums located in the Adirondack Park, as well as visits to areas in the park that have experienced environmental changes over the years.

“Whether the students stay in this area or they travel across the country, this will always be home to them,” Mucilli said. “I think it’s important they know at least something about the area.”

Adirondack Sciences

Adirondack Sciences, a course that is now in its second year, gives students opportunities to discover the Adirondacks through hands-on scientific exploration.

“We have this natural resource right in our backyard and it hasn’t been taken advantage of in regards to education and curriculum,” said Brian Henry, who co-teaches the class with Rick Snyder.

Both Henry and Snyder have been active outdoorsmen in the Adirondacks since they were young, and they were both very excited to be able to share their knowledge of the park with students. For example, Henry brings his passion for fishing to the class with a unit on fish of the Adirondacks, and Snyder’s hunting background inspired an activity in which students score deer antlers to help them understand the term “trophy buck.”

“Our first big activity was a field project where we went down to the Kennyetto Creek and looked at the biological and chemical components of the stream,” Henry said. “Our students collected a bunch of aquatic insects and brought them back to the classroom, identified them and classified them into what we call a biotic index score, and that tells the relative health of the stream. Then we did a chemical analysis of the stream to determine the overall health, both biologically and chemically.”

Recently, Adirondack Sciences students helped create the centerpieces that will be used at the district’s prom in May (see photos, above). Snyder and Henry are currently teaching a unit on animal tracks and plan to complete units on both soil sampling and maple syrup production this spring.

Because of the district’s location in the foothills of the Adirondacks, Snyder and Henry said they feel that it’s important for students to develop an awareness of and appreciation for the resources right at their fingertips.

“I think the students are now appreciating the fact that there is so much more to the Adirondacks than hunting and fishing,” Henry said. “It’s certainly opened their eyes to a whole new world, which is part of our goal as teachers and educators to get them to think about the big picture of what we are teaching them.”