Mary Katherine Murphy
Wagram’s Lumber River State Park has been abuzz this week with all the activity of a classroom.
From Tuesday through Thursday, 560 students from Scotland County’s three middle schools visited the park as part of an environmental field trip sponsored by the Scotland County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Students explored various facets of the natural world, including air quality, water quality, recycling, forestry, wildlife, endangered species, and honeybees.
“It’s a good opportunity to get the kids out of the classroom to see how science plays a role in the real world,” said Lisa Bowden, a sixth grade science and social studies teacher at Sycamore Lane Middle School.
On Tuesday, sixth graders from Spring Hill Middle School had their day in the state park, with Carver’s sixth graders on Wednesday and Sycamore Lane students venturing out on Thursday.
Kevin Crabtree, a hunter education specialist, provided one of the most enthralling exhibits for the students, giving them a crash course in tracking wild animals and allowing them to examine real pelts and skulls.
“My favorite part is when we did the animals,” said student Shanda Jacobs. “I’ve touched a dead bird, but not a wild animal.”
“This is like a long puppet,” Hannah Byrd observed as she fit an animal skin around her forearm.
For many students, who have never been close to wildlife, this excursion afforded them an opportunity to experience something entirely new.
“We use the furs, the skulls, and the tracks –all this stuff is hands-on,” said Crabtree. “Probably many of these kids have never felt a wild animal’s fur.”
“The skins are fun because they’re interesting,” said Justin Conklin. “I haven’t really seen any skinned animals.”
Beth Evans, a wildlife biologist from Fort Bragg, introduced students to the red-cockaded woodpecker, a protected species for whom the pine forests of Fort Bragg are a natural habitat. Evans also told students about the more unexpected aspects of her profession.
“Fire is pretty important for the system,” Evans said. “When you go to college, you get to take classes and you can set fires for a living.”
In addition to encountering nature’s marvels, students were also able to increase their awareness of the interconnection between the natural world and their own everyday lives.
“I didn’t know much about bees, like that you have to have bees to pollinate crops for us to have fruit and vegetables,” said Hannah.
“There are so many things we’ve learned out here today,” said Amaya Pegues. “I learned that water was renewable and I actually didn’t know that plastic was made out of oil.”
Having spent a day with the forest as their classroom, students found their horizons broadened vastly.
“This has been really interesting, said Marcella Whittaker. “I’d love to be a biologist and help endangered animals.”