Soil, water district holds field days for fifth gradersSpecial to the Mountaineer
With a seasoned team of station presenters, county fifth-graders now know more about a number of fascinating subjects. Bees, forest fires, insects, minerals, the water cycle, soil, wildlife, air quality and the research station itself — the location of the field days — were covered during the two-day event. Students left wearing a “make it and take it” bracelet, each bead representing a different aspect of the water cycle — green for plants, brown for soil, blue for water, clear for ice, burgundy for people and animals.
For the Soil and Water Conservation District, this was the 31st year of offering the field day, with a record 650 students attending. Animal lovers got to meet critters like Corny, the corn snake, Buttercup, the turtle, and Big Al, a young alligator. Park service rangers introduced students to the world of insects that exists in leaf litter; genetics was discussed up in the barn loft while nearby, kids found themselves dressing up for fire fighting with the forest service.
More than one mouth dropped open with hearing “your mom wears rocks on her face,” at the minerals station, and a break from all the walking came with a wagon ride past the bulls on the hill. Between students seeing how long they could hold their breath (air quality), feeling different soil textures (soil), warily studying honeycombs (bees) and pelts and skulls (wildlife), even the liveliest kids were surely a little tired that afternoon as the caravan of buses drove away on the graveled Test Farm Road.
For the fifth graders, the Conservation Field Day is about having fun, and the hardy resource experts who give a total of 20 presentations over the two-day event wouldn’t have it any other way. For the Soil and Water Conservation District, each resource person is a valuable partner when it comes to environmental education, with the Mountain Research Station an especially beautiful location the District is allowed to use.
Field Day presenters included Randall Beavers, NCSU Minerals Research Lab; Christine O’Brien and Jane Falkenstein, Haywood Waterways Association; Bill Skelton, Kathy Taylor, Allen Blanton, N.C. State Beekeepers’ Assoc. (Haywood chapter); William Miller, Soil Scientist, N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services; Leslie Smathers, Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District; Blair Ogburn, Balsam Mountain Trust; Patrick Farrell, Wildlife Resources Commission; Keith Bamberger, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Air Quality
Dwayne Vigil, Matthew Hooper, Joe Jones and Kerry Lathrop, N.C. Forest Service; Will Morrow, Mountain Research Station, N.C .Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services; and Beth Wright, Will Butler and Priya Cook, National Park Service (Oconoluftee).
Gail Heathman is education coordinator for the Haywood Soil & Water Conservation District.