Mayland Early College students on trail beside creek

On a sunny Friday morning in April, SAHC’s South Yellow Mountain Preserve Manager Park Greer led an outing for students from Mayland Early College High School (MECHS) of Spruce Pine to give them a glimpse into the world of conservation.

“Field trips are a refreshing break from the norm for high school students, especially when they get the chance to explore new opportunities and learn more about the wonderful natural lands around them,” says Park.

The students learned about various conservation practices such as managing lands held as conservation preserves or easements, preserving view sheds and water quality, the importance of wildlife corridors, and saving rare species. They also learned about the various citizen science opportunities provided by organizations, including “Bio-Blitzes” that allow people to get outdoors and appreciate the beauty of nature while also contributing to scientific research.

Wood frog held in person's hand

During the outing, Park had several project goals for the students. The first project involved collecting soil samples in an area that needed restoration. The students learned about the importance of data collection and how it can help restore an area’s natural health. The group then participated in a stream survey on a short section of Beaver Creek. They identified the flora and fauna of the site and learned about the importance of preserving water quality in natural habitats. Some of the species identified were Stonecrop, Dwarf Iris, and a Wood Frog! Lastly, they cleaned up a small trash dump and discussed why it’s important to keep our environment clean and how community organizations and volunteers can help in conservation work.

“The MECHS career field trip was a pilot program to see how well South Yellow Mountain Preserve can serve the local community by connecting its residents to nature,” adds Park. “The students and their teacher were all smiles throughout the day and were incredibly helpful in developing this partnership. It was an excellent example of how these educational experiences can help students develop an appreciation for the environment and the impact of their actions.”