Thursday was a big day for Adventure Pocahontas – Nature’s Mountain Classroom. Not only was it the last of four sessions with the county’s third grade students, it was also the last session of the organization’s first year of offering outdoor education to students in second through fifth grade in Pocahontas County.
For the third graders, the adventure included hiking, learning more about healthy foods and being mindful of their surroundings and their impact on the environment.
Adventure Pocahontas founder and director Tracey Valach said the students have spent the past four sessions hiking and learning about ecosystems at the Elk River Touring Center, on trails near the Scenic Highway and at Snowshoe Mountain Resort.
The final day was held at Shaver’s Lake at Snowshoe.
“Today, they made trail mix as part of the Foods that Fuel program,” she said. “Then they hiked by the dam and through the woods. They are doing first-aid, and they rode the lift up to the Shaver’s Centre area and back down to the boathouse for lunch.”
Also included in the third grade sessions was Randolph County non-profit Wonder and Grow, led by Kate Reed and Valerie Warner.
“They’re big thing is mindfulness, so they’ve done opening stretches at the beginning of activities and then at the end they sit with their groups and talk about what they are thankful for,” Valach said. “There’s a lot of gratitude sharing.
“The first session Kate and Valerie did with them – it was all about noticing things and being more aware,” she continued. “When we are on the trail, we’re not trying to just get to the other side – we need to notice what is around us.”
For the final session, the focus of the day was learning to make tinder bundles to start a fire. Reed started a fire with firewood and the students added the tinder bundles they made.
“Tinder bundles has this mindful component in it,” Reed explained. “We use these observation questions – ‘What do you notice?’ ‘I wonder?’ and asking questions and not knowing the answer.”
With such a successful year behind her, Valach said she is so grateful to all the organizations and individuals who worked with her to create Adventure Pocahontas – which will expand to include Pre-K through 12th grade next year.
“It’s like Luci [Mosesso] said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a program in the county where every single entity – private, public, school, non-profit – has worked together like they have, but I think part of that is the leadership in the community today,” Valach said. “I think a lot of it was a perfect storm with COVID and the need for non-traditional programming.”
Valach added that the help of entities like Snowshoe Mountain Resort is why the program was so successful.
“Snowshoe and the Dramas, Fairs and Festivals grant,” she said. “That’s why I was able to pay Wonder and Grow to come. Some agencies that are presenting – it’s part of their job to be here, but I want to be able to have some of the non-profits, as well.”
The day culminated like the end of each grade level session – with a signature West Virginia shaped cookie with a heart placed over Pocahontas County.
A sweet reward to end a successful year of outdoor education.