Thirty-nine high school students arrived at the stone entrance of South Fork for the day…Friday, Sept. 18. Scott Perry’s civics class (they were also Jared Brice’s biology students) came to learn about pioneer log cabin life and aspects of ecology they could experience at the nature center. The “nature deficit syndrome” that many students experience was bypassed for the day…interest ran high as lessons in the chemistry of soap making and experience using an old cross-cut saw took the spotlight. Docents led students along the trails studying insects, fungi, and other decomposers that were shaping the ecosystems on the peninsula. Other students seated in a bench circle in the woods reviewed flower parts and their functions as they discussed the sexual and asexual reproductive process influencing the outdoor species of plant life…large colorful trumpet vine flowers (red, orange, and yellow) aided their understanding of the activity.
Other student groups “journaled” their ideas and experiences as they took in the sights and sounds of the South Fork woods…they wrote miniature essays that they turned in to their docent leader…neat readings. Still other students did leaf-stamping art with nature and painted with sticks and walnut hull dye…they created artistic renditions of leaves by using paint on the lower leaf surface, transferring that leaf vein print to art paper, and spatter painting the leaf outline…the artful leaf and its colors were an introduction to the coming fall season.
It was 12:30…sack lunches at the picnic tables restored energy levels before everyone had a chance to “pull” the old, 5 ft., cross-cut saw as their partner then pulled the saw back in return. After a number of logs had been cut in pieces, the 30 year old pine had produced two piles of sawdust, one on each side of the cut log, sawdust from the growth rings the tree had made from carbohydrates translocated from photosynthetic activity way out in the leaves during the tree’s previous years of life. Thinking back over the 30 years during which the pine had grown, a number of events that took place during those years were remembered: birthdays, ball games, war in Europe, 9/11, etc. The old pine had been around a long time witnessing lots of activity.
Before taking pictures of all the class on the Riddle Cabin porch, there was a wrap-up of the day’s activities…lots of ground had been covered, new ideas had surfaced, and textbook learning from back in the classroom had been used in a new setting (the slogan “no child left inside” surely fit the day’s activities)…the day had been a special one, a day of fun where the learning took place outside on the Greers Ferry peninsula known as South Fork.