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May 20

A Week of Wonder

What happens when you take 12 students and immerse them into a new habitat in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina?

The experience of a life time.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but no picture taken throughout this week could truly capture the sights, sounds, thoughts, or feelings that were experienced. To take a step outside of the classroom and really learn about an entirely different world than what you’re used to everyday has taught me more than I ever thought was imaginable. Each student was challenged to step outside of their comfort zone as we hiked through the trails of the Blue Ridge Parkway, looked under rocks for salamanders, caught snakes out of trees, fished crayfish out of streams, and hiked up to the highest point east of the Mississippi, Mount Mitchell. Each day was a new adventure with new plants, new animals, and new things to learn. We identified dozens of trees, ferns, wildflowers, and shrubs and even learned that some of those plants were edible or could be used medicinally. Being able to touch, smell, and, yes, even taste these plants was more educational than just reading about them in a book or copying down notes from a powerpoint. The entire area surrounding us was our classroom, and we never stopped learning, no matter where we went.

Out of the whole week, my favorite memory is the hike to Hickory Falls at Chimney Rock Park. The sheer size of the waterfall was enough to leave you speechless. The sound of the falls combined with the soft mist that gently cooled you as the water cascaded over the edge and crashed into the rocks below was so overwhelmingly peaceful I didn’t want to leave. With the natural beauty that constantly surrounded us, this week did not feel like a class at all, but rather an educational vacation. I feel so fortunate to have been able to spend a week in such a majestic place and hope that many others get to do the same and are able to share in the wonderful experience I had.

Best wishes to future travelers,
Emily Humphreys