A Walk in the Woods
Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chapter members Jim Hubbard, Butch Mezick, and Steven Swartz hosted 160 high school students for an “Interpretive Walk in the Woods” in November 2010. Groups of students from Poolesville High School’s Global Ecology magnet program toured the chapter’s property to see the practical application of what the students are learning in the classroom.
The chapter volunteers began each walk at a prickly pear cactus – one of the northernmost stands of prickly pear on the East Coast. The groups discussed the unique abilities of the shale barrens to support plants and flowers and how the habitat was formed through natural processes.
Tours continued up a steep hill, stopping just below the crest to discuss soil erosion and the chemical makeup of top soil. Students stopped by a pile of trash to guess the longevity of the different discarded man-made products. Top soil takes an average of 500 years to form; by contrast, a Styrofoam bait container takes approximately 1 million years to decompose.
Students learned how to identify red, white, and chestnut oak trees by their bark and leaves and the importance of these trees in providing food for wildlife. The groups discussed zoning laws and development as they stood in an obsolete power line right-of-way clearing that offered a view of high rise developments on the other side of the Potomac River – a stark contrast to the undeveloped woodlands they were hiking.
Along the trail, the groups discovered and discussed white-tailed deer buck rubs and scrapes and wild turkey scratchings. Students learned the basic components of habitat and the impact of human development on plants and animals. Chapter members had previously placed nature items in the woods– including a deer skull with antlers, a snake skin, turkey feathers, and animal bones with teeth marks left by other animals in the pursuit of calcium – for students to “discover.” Each student gave detailed information about what he or she found.
Through programs such as the “Interpretive
Walk in the Woods,” League members at the
Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chapter are educating the
next generation of conservationists.