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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

Fifth-graders spend ‘A Day In the Woods’
New outdoor ed program held at park
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Kristi Hodges, education outreach coordinator from the Dan River Basin Association, led a stream ecology workshop with fifth-graders attending the “A Day in the Woods” event at Waid Park.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


A new outdoor education program for Franklin County fifth-graders was held Friday afternoon at Waid Park.

"A Day in the Woods" introduced Ferrum, Henry and Snow Creek students to stream life and explorations in the woods, while getting them acquainted with students from other schools.

The idea for the event came from a similar field trip to Haw River in North Carolina in which students experience outdoor learning.

"Not all schools get to go (to Haw River), so we wanted to simulate that for those who don't get to go," said Henry Elementary Principal Robin Whitmer.

This year's pilot program was organized by Snow Creek Principal Ken Grindstaff, Ferrum Principal Jennifer Talley, Whitmer and Jessica Gawor.

Upon arrival at Waid Park, students were treated to K-9 demonstrations by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office and Gawor's husband, Sgt. Brandt Gawor.

Ferrum College students were on hand to lead icebreaker and team-building activities. Students from each school were mixed into smaller groups and spent time getting to know each other through various team activities.

"This is also a good way for students to get to know others outside their school before beginning middle school next year," said Whitmer.

Learning stations were set up all around the park for students to rotate and pick up new skills through hands-on learning.

Krista Hodges, education outreach coordinator from the Dan River Basin Association, and Caity Cardwell talked with students about stream ecology and showed them live examples of the different insects and vertebrates found in local streams.

Orienteering and geocaching were a big hit with students. Miriah Eisenman, instructional coach at Snow Creek Elementary, and Kevin Ferguson, instructional technologist for Franklin County elementary schools, explained how to find missing items in the woods using GPS and a compass.

Drama and music was led by Liz Corallo, a retired teacher and instructional coach who now tutors at Henry Elementary.

Another learning station included team-building with Martha Warner and Liz Hunt, staff members at Snow Creek Elementary. Students worked together to guide each other blindfolded through "mine fields" using only the voice commands of their fellow teammates.

A plant identification station and nature walk was also featured by master naturalists Kathy Scott and Shannon Brooks. Brooks is also an English teacher at Benjamin Franklin Middle School.

After dinner, storytellers Beatrice Iceman and Vaun Gott from Booker T. Washington National Park told the story of the origin of slavery and the development of the Underground Railroad.

An Underground Railroad simulation was staged throughout the trails of the park, and students found themselves stopped by "bounty hunters," "officers" and "wardens" as they made their way to assigned "safe houses."

Once they, along with their "conductors," made it to the final safe house, they all met up to summarize their experiences and make smores by a campfire.

"The trip was wonderful," said Whitmer, who said several adults have already asked to be signed up again for next year's event.

"We thought it was a successful start to what will hopefully become an annual event," said Jessica Gawor.

Franklin County Parks and Recreation was also on board with the event, as well as members of the Franklin County School Board who helped with various aspects of the program and the Underground Railroad simulation.

A $300 donation from the Westlake Library helped fund the event.

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