The day started out with a warm welcome from Michael Hall, President and CEO of Wings of Eagles Discovery Center. He reminded us that the Elmira and Ithaca area are flying capitals essentially. Many people from the area flew aircrafts or developed aircrafts or had companies. I wasn’t aware of this history of where I grew up, or at least never thought about it in the same perspective. Now that I think of it, the area is pretty remarkable and sometimes we underestimate areas and or people.
The day was filled with lectures and hands-on activities. One of the first engaging activities that we did was “mining for chocolate”. A variety of tools and cookies were handed out and we were instructed to mine all of the chocolate chips. Some people had as many tools as they needed while other people didn’t have a tool, and on the flip side, some people had a variety of resources, while other people had little to none. We can connect this activity in various ways and at various levels. But the idea was to understand that not everyone has the same tools and resources and how do we all work together to achieve success.
The next few lectures included: sustainability, Bioeconomy, Biomass, Conversion of Biomass to Bioproducts, and Systems Thinking. A lot of information was presented in each lecture and it made me think if I was doing enough for my community. I learned that Biomass is the largest source of renewable energy in the United States. I figured it would be solar power, but I was wrong. Biomass can use a variety of types of feedstock. It is beneficial by using more than one resource so we don’t deplete anything. The idea of sustainability came up many times throughout lectures. Nirav Patel from Cornell University mentioned that we teachers influence the students who then go home and tell their parents, which help mold our society. So if we expose more students to the idea of bioenergy, our societies will hopefully become more sustainable.
The highlight of the day for me was the different rotations and hands-on activities available. One of the stations had supplies to make packaging peanuts in a bio-friendly way. Another station had many byproducts on display to become aware of. My favorite was the lip balm! A few of the other stations were comparing the effectiveness of regular packaging materials verses bioproduct packaging materials. We packaged an egg any way we wanted and dropped it to test out the materials. Most people found the bioproduct packing materials to be more protective. We also made bouncy balls using various bioproducts and tested bioproduct cleaners versus regular cleaners.
Overall, my favorite parts of the day were the hands-on activities. I learn by doing (as do most people) and I was able to see how bioproducts were as usable and friendly compared to non-bioproducts. This helped open my eyes to using more environmentally friendly products. I don’t want to use Styrofoam anymore, I was to use the bioproduct packaging peanuts because instead of throwing them away, you can compost them and they dissolve and they have the same effectiveness!
by Katie Vann
Reading Specialist and WEDC Instructor