Keep up with happenings in and around northern
Blair County with “In My Opinion,” a weekly column by
The Daily Herald’s Staff Writer, Kris Yaniello.
With Gamesa’s proposed 10 to 15 turbine wind farm on the Tyrone Borough’s watershed property still awaiting a vote by council, this section of the proposed Sandy Ridge Wind Farm project has peaked interest among the young minds within the Tyrone Area School District.
I’ve been curious to know what the young people think about clean energy and the responsible siting of wind turbines in the mountains we all know and love. Beginning last week, Tyrone Area High School U.S. Civics teacher, Mr. Todd Cammarata, has given his tenth grade students the opportunity to indulge in Tyrone’s proposed project.
Mr. Cammarata’s U.S. Civics Community Issues Project is titled, “The Sandy Ridge Wind Farm Proposal – Energy Independence or Environmental Hazard.” The students will hypothetically assume the role of advisor to the borough council on this issue. Students will hear the pros and cons of wind farms through presentations by Dr. Stan Kotala, conservation chairperson for the Juniata Valley Audubon Society and Josh Framel, a Gamesa project developer.
Borough Councilperson Pat Stoner assisted Cammarata in gathering information and securing guest speakers for the project. Other students in the science and social studies departments, and several twelfth and eighth grade classes were invited to sit in on the guest speakers’ presentations.
Along with the presentations, students have been conducting their own research provided by Gamesa, the Save Ice Mountain organization, articles and letters to the editor from The Daily Herald and the Altoona Mirror, material created by the Juniata Valley Audubon Society, and results from the community survey taken during the Pennsylvania primary April 22.
The first two days of the project last week, students were asked to use the above resources and identify ten facts, reasons, or arguments that the student might use to support the project. The same went for opposing the project. They were also asked to develop seven to ten questions to ask the guest speakers in support and opposition.
This week, the students are listening to presentations by Kotala and Framel, while taking notes that will be eventually graded, as well as asking questions that were prepared.
Next week, the students will have two days to take a position on the project, but students must include both points of view. The final project will be in a form of a paper, poster, brochure, or PowerPoint presentation.
The idea of the project is for each student to make a recommendation to borough council on how each student thinks council should proceed with the proposed wind farm.
To me, that’s wonderful and thorough. Perhaps everyone who is involved in the wind farm proposal vote should participate in a project like this, where you are asked to look at both sides of the issue, listen to presentations from both sides, ask questions about the pros and the cons, take a stance on the topic, then present it, and finally be graded on it.
Our council members are, in a way, doing the same thing. Each of their grades on the wind farm proposal might come in the form of a ballot at election time.
I’ve said before that it is extremely important to know how the young people feel about this project, because they will be the majority who will live through the 30-year life of the wind farm. I’m interested to see the results, mainly because I think teenagers and young adults look at clean energy in a different light.
That doesn’t excuse proper or improper wind turbine siting, but I think council should know the results of the classroom project and take it into consideration. Why not? Many of these kids will be borough taxpayers someday, but were unable to take the informal survey at the April 22 primary.
These kids are hearing from both sides of the issue, they have all the materials and knowledge in front of them, and they’re grown enough to make a decision for themselves. Don’t exclude their opinion, because it’s coming from the people who will have to deal or not deal with the effects of the wind turbines – whether negative or positive.
It’s not every high school student at Tyrone, but it’s a voice. A voice that may not have been heard until now.