Greenbrier Middle School Science Club Visits South Fork Nature Center


Eighteen middle school science club members, together with teachers Pam Shirley and Amy Evans from Greenbrier School District, visited the Nature Center at South Fork on November 16th. Docent Marc Hirrel PhD., State Coordinator Leopold Education Project, led a “standards based” program including hands-on, field-based study. The day’s program consisted of interactive trail hikes with activities integrating math, science and literature. He was assisted by docents Bob Hartman and Janet Miron.

Readings from “A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold started the students’ thought processes as they created a “Sound Map”.

Further along the trail they created a beaded bracelet while participating in the “Atom Adventure” & “Leopold’s Odyssey” learning more about unhealthy land practices, soil nutrient distribution, concentration of freshwater and saltwater on the earth’s surface and how we can change our land use practices to keep nutrients in the soil.

Docent Marc Hirrel baiting the game camera

Students also could reinforce their classroom studies of how herbivores, carnivores and decomposers play a part in the nutrient flow. As the Students continued their hike they were led off the trail to a “Multi-Carbon Pool Site”. They talked about “Carbon Fluxes” such as photosynthesis, respiration, ocean mixing, waste production, burns, dissolves, leaves solution, sequestration, eaten, and breaks down.

At the end of the exercise the students addressed such questions as:

  1. How could we change these pools to remove more carbon from the atmosphere?
  2. What are the implications of removing the trees from a piece of land and developing it so that trees no longer dominate the landscape?

The next activity on the trail hike was the construction of a “Climate Timeline” using data supplied consisting of factual events happening in history. The focus of the exercise was for the students to learn about levels of atmospheric CO2 dating back to the 1800’s and to differentiate the reason for the levels between “Scientific events” and “Policy Events”. The students graphed the historical levels of atmospheric CO2 in their individual workbooks as Docent Marc Hirrel recreated their results on a poster.


The last trail activity before lunch was a visit to SFNC’s weather station. The students collected data of air temperatures, soil temperatures and calculated the differences between the maximum and minimum temperatures. They practiced converting the readings from Fahrenheit to Celsius. A discussion on the differences in air and soil temperature followed.


After lunch the students and the docents hiked a different trail back to the waiting school bus. On their way, they stopped to set up game cameras to monitor the wildlife activity at the Nature Center. They hoped to observe different naturally occurring species in their habitats.

We want to thank our docents and the Administrators at Greenbrier School District for approving this field trip for the science club. The weather was perfect, the students and teachers were awesome and the standards-based, hands-on curriculum provided all participants with an interesting, intellectual and fun day outside!