This field trip was a partnered effort of Blue Ridge Discovery Center, Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club, United States Forest Service, and Grayson County High School.
Through the unfailing efforts of Deborah Greif, Special Education teacher at the high school, all of us were finally able to put a long suffering plan into action. Meeting at Elk Garden, in the highlands of Grayson County, at 9:30AM, we split into four small groups of kids, which were rotated through four programs.
Several adults acted as floaters, working in one or more programs, including William Cober with the forest service and Katy Carrico, teacher.
Exploring the Appalachian Trail was one of the four activities. Anne Maio, President of the Mount Rogers ATC, and Carol Broderson, who works with the trail club and with Blue Ridge Discovery Center, led groups of students on a hike. Anne gave the students information on "Leave No Trace" principles to start and she discussed the history of the Appalachian Trail. The groups worked on wildflower and tree identification and recorded discoveries. The students really loved hiking, and most wished they could keep going.
Cecelia Mathis, with BRDC, helped kids with photography tips.
Deborah and fellow teacher Kathy Davis worked one program on mathematical descriptions.
Roald Kirby, Eric Harold and Scott Jackson-Ricketts, all BRDC volunteers, offered a biological survey on two small sections of forest edges, where they began each rotation with a discussion and identification of plants found within one square yard. This led to questions about seed dispersal, wildflower bloom sequence, the maple syrup operation obvious in our midst by the network of tubing leading down to a collection tank, the micro ecosystem contained within leaf litter, edibility of some species over others, and so on. The kids were then given free time to explore under rocks and logs, and encouraged to bring specimens to the workstation table, where we further explored under microscopes and through field guides.
Without exception, all of the kids engaged and participated with interest and good questions. They were asked to document their experience with sketches, photos, and lists of field finds. Hopefully, we will have another installment based on their observations in the near future.
Article by Scott Jackson-Ricketts