Enrichment with Galax Middle School

What a week loaded with lots of fun both inside and out! The students of Galax Middle School played games, made camp, knapped arrowheads, and caught BIG fish.

As part of the enrichment program with Galax City Public Schools, BRDC provides educational hands-on activities focused on the Blue Ridge. Last week we provided cultural heritage exploration as well as outdoor skills to these students. Fly fishing, primitive technology, camping, and highland games were the course offerings for the spring session.

It was a chilly start to the first morning of the fly fishing program, so we focused on equipment and knots, with the students learning those necessary for building leaders and tippet. As an introduction to flies used in fly fishing, Tuesday provided us with warmth and sunshine as we hit the creek looking for aquatic insects . . . aka . . . fish food. After an intro to casting, review, and practice, the fishing began, but to no avail. After a day of no fish fishing, they hit the fly tying table to equip themselves with ammunition. Between the woolly bugger, Griffith’s gnat, and mop fly; something had to catch fish. Friday was the day! The trout hit those woolly buggers and never stopped. We could hardly keep up with the frenzy. It was a stellar fly fishing (and catching) week!

The afternoons provided a multitude of programs. Highland Games introduced the students to some of the cultural heritage of the region. Not only did they participate in Highland-style games, but Appalachian games as well. All week the students competed with one another in the caber toss, sheath toss, haggis hurl, stone put, kiltie dash, and tug-of-war as part of the Scots-Irish highland games. The Appalachian games were mostly indoors and included marbles, jacks, hopscotch, checkers, hoop rolling relays, three-legged races, and jumping rope. The Lions were the winning clan, but each individual was a winner in their own right as they all excelled at something.

Camping is a joy to all kids, big and small. What could be more fun than pitching a tent or chilling in a hammock during the school day? As part of our introductory camping program, the students were introduced to the basic skills and equipment needed to have a safe and enjoyable camping and hiking adventure. The week began with learning where to camp if you find yourself in an unplanned outdoor overnight situation, learning how to build an emergency shelter, and tying knots. It progressed to the ten essentials that one should carry backpacking and hiking, and on to bear safety and water purification. Of course they had to build a fire, cook food, and drink hot chocolate, too . . . it was February!

Cordage “tied” the week together. Primitive technology finished out the week with a multitude of projects that demonstrated the skills needed to provide food and shelter for early peoples of any region. Searching out and finding natural plant materials and resources to make tools and primitive living essentials was the goal of this program. The students made cord from the fibers of plants, pottery from clay, baskets from vines, fire from pine cones, and glue from sap and scat. The highlight was making arrow points from rocks using antlers; definitely a primitive living skill to perfect.

It was a pleasure working with these students and providing them with a new skill or even a new lifelong hobby. Thanks to all the hard work and planning involved for the Galax Middle School staff in pulling this great week of enriching activities together and allowing Blue Ridge Discovery Center to be a part of it. And thanks to Matthews State Forest for the generous use of their facilities and property. It was a fintastic week!