Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Retirement Nature Hike for Mrs. Haulsee's Kindergarten

Three weeks ago I got a request for a most unusual
retirement gift from Ellen Haulsee, kindergarten
teacher at Sandhills Farm Life.  She asked if I would
take her class on the Nature Trail.  Of course, I agreed,
and last week we made it happen. Her assistant, Pam
Cameron was my faithful assistant the last two years
of my career.  Pam snapped this photo for me.

Not surprisingly, we had hardly begun our walk when
I saw a shrub I had never before seen in bloom. I 
haven't yet identified it.

Just a couple of weeks earlier on SFL Heritage Day,
these Royal Ferns had not yet emerged. In that brief a
 time, they have now grown to more than two feet tall!

Students noticed this butterfly chrysalis underneath the leaf of
a Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant.  If I'm not mistaken, it may be a
Zebra Swallowtail, like Judy and I saw at the Eno River.

Students eye this cinnamon fern spore stalk.

These boys consider it quite a find!

Here's another shrub that wasn't blooming two weeks earlier.

These students are examining Horse Sugar, after crossing the
bridge over the stream.

We also discovered these pignuts, the flowers of Wild Ginger.
The flowers are usually hidden under decaying leaves, and are
pollinated by ants and other insects.

Even a Magnolia leaf is looked on as a treasure when you're
on a nature hike.

Many of these children are seeing Big Rock for the very first
time, and they like what they see.

This young man is amazed at the size of this well-watered
Cinnamon Fern at streamside.

While some are looking at Big Rock, others take a brief rest.

While resting, students look up, down, and all around.

There's always something new and unexpected, and sometimes
you have to STOP to pay attention and notice it.

This tree is known at "The Wishing Well." Students were
invited to toss in stickerballs from sweetgum trees and make a wish.

Some tossed in a whole handful!  Hope their wishes all come true.

After our traditional attempt to help straighten Old Man Poplar,
we head back toward the trail entrance.
 Here's a final look at Mrs. Haulsee, Mrs. Cameron,
and a very fine kindergarten class.

Note: I was Ellen Haulsee's mentor when she began
her career teaching at Farm Life 30 years ago.  Both
of us taught our entire careers at the best school in
Moore County.  I'm glad I could give her the gift she
wanted for her retirement!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

2018 SFL School Heritage Day includes Nature Walks

Friday, April 27, 2018 was Sandhills Farm Life
School Heritage Day, and a grand day it was.
Activities included self-guided campus tours for classes
and live instructional demonstrations with cows, 
chickens, and strawberry growing.  Some students
built models of our school at different points in its
history.  Others hiked to McLeod's Table Farm to see 
a natural spring and learn about the Native Americans
who once lived here.  Some classes would interview
pre-1964 alumni of Farm Life High School to help create
an oral history, and eventually a video for our
library archives.  The whole event was conceived
and coordinated by Mrs. Kim Hilliard, and many
thanks go to her for this worthwhile endeavor.

I was delighted to provide nature trail hikes for all
second graders and my blog will focus on them.

When I arrived at school students were gathering to
see a milking demonstration.

Since my daddy grew up on a dairy he advised me 
not to get roped into that sort of thing, so I moved on
toward the Nature Trail.

I'll leave the chickens to someone else, too.

Ah, the Nature Trail was primed and ready for
eager second graders.

The balloon and an informational clipboard were
part of the self-guided tour for all grades.

The clipboard gave a brief history of our trail since 1985.

The most notable recent addition is the boardwalk
for erosion control created by Andy Paris and his 
Boy Scout troop.

This is what the boardwalk looked like just 
after construction.

I was thrilled to be able to feature some plants that
even I wasn't prepared for.  We believe this dainty one
 is Bog White Violet, also known as Lance Leaf Violet.

It grows at streamside just across from Big Rock.

I had never seen a specimen of Solomon's Seal on
the north side of the stream until this day.

The tiny flowers are sheltered on the underside and
should open in the next few days.

Here's an excellent specimen of Cinnamon Fern and
students spotted many more off the trail.

Coral Honeysuckle is another plant rarely observed
on the trail.

Lovely Pinkster Flower or Wild Azalea is a shrub
that adorns our stream area.

Green and Gold is the name of this pretty wildflower.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit, which is cropping up all over
the trail, was a 2nd grade favorite.

One of our main stops was at Old Man Poplar.
this closeup shows how the poplar tree (at bottom
of photo) has been sliding down and rubbing the
bark off of a sweetgum tree over the last several years.

This view from underneath shows the bumpy character
of Old Man Poplar.  I asked students if he were dead or
alive.  Some thought he was dead because he was leaning
so precariously, but others saw the new green leaves that
confirmed he was alive.

As students left Old Man Poplar I asked them to
imagine what year he might fall, or if he could 
reach the ground and still be living.

Every class got the opportunity to try to elevate
the Old Man, even if only half an inch.

We're not sure if our efforts paid off, but students
get an A + for effort!

Students loved getting acquainted with Big Rock.
They only wished they could climb on him.

Mrs. Dumas had a snake story to match any of mine.
She told me and her class how once she was taking
a before-school stroll on the trail and a small black
rat snake dropped right onto her and down to the ground.

We're heading from Big Rock to Jack, Will, and Tom.

Every student got to back up to this three-in-one
marvel and see an incredible view upward.

Students patiently wait their turn for a view.  I was
so pleased that friends of nearly four decades, Jody
and Paula Hall, joined us on this walk.

Both of these friends wanted to be "last," so 
this is how we handled it.

By the way, here is the iconic view these children
are seeing.  If you haven't witnessed it in person,
it's worth the trip!

This is our very own "Wishing Well."  I had students
imagine they were tossing in a lucky penny and making
a wish as they went by.  The very last class to take the
tour actually tossed in sweetgum stickerballs.

Why don't YOU make a plan to visit our trail
and make a wish?

I couldn't get group pictures of all six classes, but these
bright, imaginative, and eager learners are representative
of the 120 that joined me on the trail this day.

SFL School Heritage Day was a red-letter day for me.
Our school has a long and proud history, and each year adds
more to its storied legacy. I'm glad the SFL Nature Trail
is and will continue to be part of that history.