Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"I learned not to squeeze salamanders!"

“I learned not to squeeze salamanders,” wrote a 4th grader from Webster Springs Elementary on their evaluation for a recent school course. “I learned that my friends are brave and strong,” read another. In one short day, we’d taken the group of curious, rambunctious kids on a salamander hunt and a tour of Spruce Knob.
Paula Waggy, a retired teacher and friend of The Mountain Institute, joined us for the day and presented the salamander lesson. The 32 students gathered just over 30 salamanders, including the red-backed salamander, the spotted newt, the dusky salamander, and a special guest star. Mrs. Waggy gasped when one student showed her a black salamander dusted in coppery spots. She grabbed her guidebook and confirmed we’d uncovered the rare Cheat Mountain salamander on our property. After the exciting discovery, we combed through the underbrush to study what salamanders eat: mites, beetles, flies, springtails and ants.
After lunch, we trotted up the boulder field at Spruce Knob and discussed the formation of Spruce Knob and the Allegheny Plateau and Ridge and Valley Province. After a lesson on proper spotting technique, we let the kids tackle the giant boulders near the summit. For one teacher, the boulder field was a favorite: "I especially enjoyed watching the students overcome their fears during the "play" time at the Boulder Field. They are often discouraged from taking any risks."
When we gathered up by the school bus to wave goodbye, we asked the student to describe the day’s experience in one word.





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