Fourth Grade Trip to Joyce Kilmer
Fourth grade is the first year students participate in our Education Outdoors curriculum, so there is an emphasis on learning to work in a group, cook on a backpacking stove, set up tents, keep their clothing and gear dry, and take care of group food. Lessons learned about camping basics set students up for success on the rest of our trips.
The trip destination is Joyce Kilmer National Forest, one of the few areas of virgin forest in North Carolina. It fits perfectly with much of the material covered in the classroom over the course of the year. Through the year students study animal habitats and western North Carolina history. They also spend time in Great Smoky National Park, a recovering ecosystem. Preparation for the trip includes measuring trees around the school and homes. Students map out the route on NC state road maps and follow it on the way to the campground.
By the time students get to Joyce Kilmer they can see layers of history and ecology. They close their eyes and imagine what it would have been like to walk through this forest as white settlers arriving from Ireland or Native Americans traveling to a neighboring village. The health of land that can only be found in old growth forests is evident. At every turn they find a wild creature. They compare it to their own back yards, and are able comment on the effects of human impact. The trip pulls together many of the themes of the fourth grade year, including maps, personal responsibility, western NC history, NC commerce, natural eco systems, animal adaptation (especially to man's environment) and service to our area.