It was a schoolday, but the whole school was on top of a mountain. With panoramic mountain views all around, first grader Penelope was examining a strange plant. It was growing out of the open pasture on top of Bearwallow Mountain. It had tough, woody branches and green pods armored in thorns. The older pods had split open, revealing shiny, dark seeds. Other pods had just started to crack.
Penelope and her friends tried different ways to pry them open, but the thorns pricked their fingers. Using sticks helped. Penelope slid some seeds out, dug a small hole, and dropped them in. “I’m planting them!” she said. For Penelope, the best part of this field trip was “experimenting on different plants.”
Elsewhere on the mountaintop, a group of boys stacked rocks to build a house for “an ant millionaire.” Kids walked or ran on rocks, trying not to teeter off into imaginary lava. Others looked for bugs, and found spiders, beetles, crickets, and grubs. Kids did cartwheels. Kites sailed and bubbles floated on the breeze.
On this cool October day, FernLeaf Community Charter School brought the entire school—nearly 300 students, from kindergarten through sixth grade—to the top of the mountain, with the help of volunteers and Conserving Carolina. The children hiked the one-mile trail in groups, sometimes scrambling up a boulder on their way or taking a break to write in their journals.