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DORSET — Karli Love knew her fifth- and sixth-grade math and science students were ready for a change of scenery.

“After 18 months of restrictions, it was time for the kids to put down their Chromebooks and take their learning outside,” Love said.

So off they went for a 4-mile hike through the Equinox Preservation Trail System, up to Robin’s Lookout and around the Equinox Pond. Ever the nature-loving teacher, Love snuck in life science lessons that seemed a lot more fun in the woods than in a classroom.

Prior to the hike, the science students had learned that when the temperature turns cooler, trees pull the green chlorophyll from their leaves. This is an evolutionary act of self-preservation: it allows trees to store added nourishment to make it through the frigid winter. It also turns the leaves red, yellow and orange before they float to the ground.

Understanding the leaf color-changing process in the classroom was one thing, but taking in the view on the walk up the mountain reinforced the lesson for the kids.

“Trees are very wise,” observes sixth-grader Charlie Gaiotti. “They’ve been around thousands of years.”

Adds fellow sixth-grader, Elise Hornby, “Trees know how to take care of themselves and they give us something beautiful to look at.”

For the students, a highlight of the trip, and another lesson in the life sciences, was discovering wild mushrooms.

“The fungi were everywhere,” said Charlie. “On the trees, on the ground, and with all sorts of shapes and sizes.”

Elise was enchanted by one particular type of mushroom.

“My favorite was the round puffballs. When we touched them, they went poof!”

Fifth-grader, Catie Black, remembers the wildlife. “I loved seeing the fish as we circled the pond,” said Black. “We also discovered a red-backed salamander, newts, and the chipmunks were running all around us.”

The teachers even found ways to add English lessons into the hike and create a sense of camaraderie.

“We were asked to list adjectives to describe the mountain view,” said Black. “We worked as a group and called out words during our walk.”

Their answers included: spectacular, divine, extravagant.

Just like their time spent together in the woods.

Robert J. Niles handles communications for the Taconic & Green and Mettawee school districts.


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