Today’s post is written by our first guest blogger, Jenny McClarren.
Parents, family, friends, and neighbors of WT met for the annual “Walk in the Woods”. This tour offered participants a chance to enjoy family time, bond with friends, and experience the beauty of nature offered throughout the Northbound Trail.
The journey began at the front of the Northbound Trail, led by tour guide Mr. Cooper. He opened the excursion by explaining the birth and on-going expansion of the Northbound Trail. The trail was created and designed from the visions of students. Students continue to voluntarily work diligently on continuous expansions and improvements.
“The amount of trail that gets done is all based on student interest and the time they want to commit to it. The students have been so passionate about this project that we always end up doing more than planned,” Cooper explained.
Fifth grade students have the opportunity to create a legacy project, which will stay on campus forever. Many of the legacies left can be found along the Northbound Trail. Two years ago, students designed an entrance sign, which marks the beginning of the trail.
After learning the history of the trail, Mr. Cooper explained that earlier in the day, three different colored skeletons went missing. He encouraged children to find and collect hidden bones along the trail. The children were challenged to find all the missing bones and put three skeletons backtogether after the hike.
The families were led to the first stop of the evening – Pioneer Village. Upon arrival, everyone was encouraged to gather around the campfire for the story of the “Deck Monster”. The Deck Monster lives under the deck by the pond, and is infamous for capturing physical education equipment – specifically the soccer balls and tennis balls. All participants were comforted as Mr. Cooper explained that the monster has no interest in capturing children or teachers.
Also in Pioneer Village, Mr. Cooper shared an occurrence of cross-curricular learning the third graders were able to experience. While reading Little House on the Prairie in Language Arts, and learning about the history of the pioneers in Social Studies, students took an interest in “notching” – making notches in logs so they fit firmly together. This interest sparked the first project to be completed in Pioneer Village – a log cabin built from the ground up. Students were able to exercise their interests throughout the construction. Some enjoyed notching, while others enjoyed clearing and leveling the building site, or pounding the ground into a firm dirt floor. Throughout building the log cabin, students gained an appreciation for the pioneers and the characters in Little House on the Prairie.
Participants of the hike were then led to different educational “way-points” or learning stations along the trail. The first stop was a giant spider web. This station is used as a team-building exercise in physical education. Children are challenged to make their way through the giant spider web. The catch is – each hole can only be used one time and then it becomes closed off. The children must work together to create an effective plan to get everyone through the web. Using spotting and climbing skills, children help each other through the highest parts of the web first.
Next to the giant spider web is Mr. Cooper’s self-built off-trail challenge course. The course is a compilation of ropes anchored to the trees. Children use this station as an obstacle course. Different activities in this course offer children a chance to use problem solving skills and teamwork.
The last stop of the journey was Yoda’s village. Mr. Cooper envisioned a space on the trail to collect left over building supplies, trash, and materials to show children that these leftovers do not just “go away”. While placing materials there, one student mentioned the space looked like “Yoda’s Village”, and thus the name was given.
The evening was brought together at the end of the trail. Mr. Cooper explained the ongoing efforts to continue construction of the Northbound Trail.
The evening offered perfect weather, and beautiful fall foliage. The walk was a great bonding experience not only with each other, but with nature as well. Thank you Mr. Cooper for the wonderful tour!