Friday, July 22, 2011

Oh, the Wonders of Water

"Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps." -Henry Davide Thoreau, Walking

It was with this sentiment that seven West Virginia school teachers and five TMI instructors took part in TMI's four-day Wonders of Water (WOW) workshop this July at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center. After learning and practicing Project WET activities with Rose Long of the WV Department of Environmental Protection, and Wonders of Wetlands activities with Kate Frase of Environmental Concern, everyone dug into Environmental Concern's "Planning of Wetlands" (POW) process for creating schoolyard wetland habitat. The POW guide details everything one needs to know to take a hunk of lawn and make it a marshland or swamp filled with macroinvertebrates and sedges. At the Spruce Knob Mountain Center, we had a jump on the game with the beloved Butt Cheek Ponds, an existing set of wetlands. The Butt Cheeks have some wildlife but were in much need of diverstiy and a face-lift to fulfill the desired education role. Thanks so much to the participants who opened up the viewshed, suffered the prick of an occasional hawthorn, laid the stone pathway, and planned the proper location and density of our new wetland vegetation. We planted 242 stems of Swamp Milkweed, Blue Joint Grass, Marsh Hibiscus, Blue Flag Iris, Lizard's Tail, Wool Grass, and Soft Stem Bulrush. We look forward to having everyone back to our new High Camp Wetland Revitalization Project in the near future. Bring your students!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Maret Horizons

We just finished up a short program with a group of enthusiastic students from the Maret Horizons program. Horizons is a nationwide summer enrichment program for children from low-income families. Maret, a private school in Washington, DC, is one of the schools that hosts the program.

The kids, mostly from northwest Washington, DC, swam in the North Fork River, hiked to the summit of Spruce Knob, and practiced their wilderness survival skills. By the end of the program, everyone was able to get a fire going in under five minutes.

In the top photograph, a girl holds a Red Spotted Newt that had been basking in the shade of the Spruce trees. In the lower photograph, the students assemble an emergency debris shelter with sticks and leaves. The students pulled together in great ways - orienteering, cooking, and solving problems as a team.

Richard, one of the group's chaperones, came to The Mountain Institute as a fifth grader. It would be great to see some of these kids come back one day too.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Positive Feedback

Wendell Berry once said that "a teacher's major contribution may pop out anonymously in the life of some ex-student's grandchild. A teacher, finally, has nothing to go on but faith, a student nothing to offer in return but testimony." Going on faith is often one of the most challenging aspects of teaching, especially when your time with students is so short as ours often is. Everyone once in awhile though, we do get to see results - or at least hear about them secondhand. It's enough to prop us up and give us a glimpse of the greater impact of our work. So thanks to the parents for sending the note above, it's good to know we're doing something right.