Local students enjoy Field Days at Research Station

By Kyle Perrotti | Oct 06, 2016
Photo by: Kyle Perrotti

Area fifth graders got to spend a day out of the classroom and gain some hands-on experience at the Mountain Research Station’s field day, held Wednesday and Thursday.

The two-day event marked the 35th anniversary of the field day, and Gail Heathman, education coordinator for the Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District, who has been running the event for the last 17 years, said that some of the kids had parents who participated in the event when they were younger. She noted that while all the stations keep the kids entertained, the focus is to provide a hands-on experience that ties in to what is being taught in the classroom.

“We try to teach about a lot of things that kids are required to know about by the state,” she said.

Heathman starts planning the event months in advance to coordinate the schedules of the people who work the various stations. She said she tries to make even the more academic stations fun for kids with the hope that perhaps she can expose young minds to potentially new fascinations.

“Some kids already have an interest, and it’s confirmed here,” she said. “For some kids, it lights a new spark.”

The 10 stations were Wildlife, The Water Cycle, BEES!, Air Quality, The Web of Life, Minerals, The Wagon Ride, Insects, Agricultural Research, and N.C. Forest Service.

The field day also provides an opportunity for teachers to get outside and get extra help with educating their students. Blake Kirby and Rosemary Rogers are teachers at Hazelwood Elementary.

“The fresh air is great,” Kirby said. “The presenters are great. The people do a really good job of keeping kids level while also entertaining them.”

Kirby added that it helps him do his job when someone at a station talks about something that he knows he will cover in class a month or two later, so he can simply say to his kids, “Remember when we learned about that at the field day?”

One of the kids’ consistently favorite stations is the minerals station, run by North Carolina State University's Mineral Research Lab’s Randall Beavers.

Rogers said that he makes a topic which is very tough to teach in the classroom exciting for the kids.

“I’ve had plenty of kids leave here and say, I”m going to be a geologist,” she said.

And it wasn’t just the kids and teachers who enjoyed a break from the classroom. The presenters enjoy teaching local children about the importance of conservationism.

Larissa Lopez and Jen Knight, of the nonprofit Balsam Mountain Trust, got to teach students about “The Web of Life,” and they even brought a couple of their friends with them, including the American kestrel, the smallest falcon on the planet.

Because the Balsam Mountain Trust focuses primarily on teaching the public about conservation, Lopez said she gets to work on a sort of continuous curriculum with many of the students.

“These are fun,” she said. “The bulk of our work is environmental education, so we’ve already seen a lot of these kids before.”

Although many of the kids who participated in the field day won’t go on to become farmers or conservationists, they left the field day with a new respect for nature and where their food comes from.