On Wednesday, September 14, the big orange bus climbed the last hill north to the Nature Center. The door opened and out stepped 45 ninth graders, all anxious to hit the trails. Scott Perry, their civics teacher, Jared Price, their biology teacher, and Logan Williams, the Dean of Students, had brought them for the day. After a brief introduction to South Fork, Don Culwell led them past the kiosk at the trail head for the half mile walk to the Riddle Cabin.

Already just past the entrance, students were asked to look up into an aged, white oak standing somewhat bent over in the forest canopy. They were challenged to “read the woods” by observing this “long-time forest resident.” They discovered that lightning had broken the top out many years ago leaving a long, gaping scar all the way down its trunk to the base where an 8-10” opening, now many years later, had rotted away leaving some shelter for an animal in its cavity. Lightning? Yes, the top had been blown off; side branches had continued grown upward through the opening in the canopy brought on by the storm of years ago. Look, listen, and “read the woods” for what you can glean from the forest. Who lives there, what is going on? This began the day of fun and excitement.

Arriving at the cabin from the trail hike, four groups were organized for morning sessions spent with docents: flowers and trees along the trail, journaling about forest life while sitting in a wooded bench circle, insect biology and life along the trail, and the pioneer craft of soap making and its chemistry (from way back in the days when the 100 year old cabin had been built.

After a sack lunch for students at tables outside the cabin, they all had their turn at taking part in old time activities. Using a long, cross-cut saw cutting several, big, pine logs 12-18” in diameter were cut as two students pulled the large saw teeth back and forth across years of wood rings laid down by the once living tree. Other students jumped rope while two students turned the long, rope arc for a student to jump, even two jumped at a time. In the dust on the ground another group of students was shooting marbles trying to knock their competitor’s marbles out of the circle, winning the marble he could bump out.

When 1:45 rolled around, activities moved back to the cabin porch. Summing up the day in a wrap-up session, students recalled the day’s fun in the “outdoor classroom” and headed up the road to the bus around 2:00 in time to get back to campus before school ended. Another fine day, but the learning had been in an unusual classroom, one everybody appreciated! The slogan “no child left inside” had surely been followed!