While at the workshop, I spoke on creative writing, a topic I love. Also, I discovered several waterfalls near Mt. Cheaha I had never seen before. I found a heart-shaped piece of quartz; saw mushrooms of blue, orange, red, pink, gold, brown, and white; avoided stepping on a sleepy timber rattler; and made a fairy house. I learned to teach children the importance of the big picture when considering the earth and its limitations. I have dozens of new ideas that will motivate children to enjoy and protect our state. My students will love to drink some pine-needle tea and study how various plants can improve our health. I made contacts with people who are in touch with the old-timey crafts, such as making baskets and things of iron. Our instructors charged us to inspire our future students and friends to relish their nature experiences and enjoy Alabama’s natural resources.
I remember being this excited when I attended Camp Cottaquilla as a child. Back then I made a cairn (a memorial of stones), cooked on an open fire, and made a hat of leaves -- inspiring activities that I had forgotten.
The experiences the teachers and I shared, along with artist Allison McElroy of Jacksonville State University, weren’t free. Legacy: Partners in Environment Education and Jacksonville State University Field Schools (under the Environmental Policy and Information Center) obtained and provided funding.
Both groups want teachers throughout the state to incorporate the concepts we learned into science, history, the language arts, the visual arts, music, and all other subjects. The staff of both organizations wants to promote and preserve the beauty in our state.
Our state is gorgeous. Cheaha was lovely last week, in spite of the rain. I stood atop Bald Rock one afternoon and watched clouds whiz by. They were part of a cold front. “Listen,” I said to another hiker, “the tree frogs are silent.” She laughed as her hair blew around her. “They are too busy clinging to the trees for dear life,” she said.
On Thursday morning, a couple of hours before I left, the mountaintop was clear. However, a thick blanket of white clouds lay on Oxford and Anniston. I sat for 30 minutes and watched as the white wisps of mist lifted from a nearby mountain and, afterward, the heavy fog began to lift above the cities. What a great perspective. I knew people scurried beneath the fog, unaware of what was happening above their heads. How often do all of us fail to appreciate such showy gifts from nature?
Legacy and the JSU Field Schools need support. Everyone who cares about Alabama’s natural resources can help both groups through donations. Visit www.legacyenved.org and click on the partnership program icon, or call 1-800-240-5165. You can take part for as little as $10 a year. I already signed up. Buy a car tag that provides funds for Legacy. Read about all of their programs. I was surprised that so many of my friends were already partners.
Support the JSU Field Schools. They need money to help students in need of financial assistance enjoy the minimal costs of some of the programs that are not free. (Many are free.) Make checks to JSU Field Schools Foundation and mail to JSU Field Schools, 700 Pelham Road N, Jacksonville, AL 36265. Assistant director Renee Morrison leads a staff that teaches concepts about nature and its importance to children. You may help by visiting the website and staying abreast of activities and programs. Volunteers are always needed, and donations are welcome. If you have questions, call Morrison at 256-782-8010. The field schools strive to create a “Sense of Place, Diversity, and Stewardship,” a motto that sums up the hundreds of programs located from Alabama’s most southern and northern cities and communities that are supported by EPIC and the field schools. To learn more, visit http://www.jsu.edu/epic/field_schools/.
Email Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org.