Nature Trek 360° is a partnership with the Natural Tunnel State Park that offers a 3 day 2 night camp for middle school students with the goal of introducing the students to the natural and cultural history of their region. The program has been offered as part of Scott County’s summer school curriculum.
The program addresses standards of learning in science and social studies for students entering 5th – 8th grades, while also providing a framework to allow the students to discover the outdoors through exploration.
Over the past four years, results have been tremendously popular and generated a great deal of excitement in students, teachers, administrators and park staff. Each day has a theme with a focus on different aspects of the natural or cultural history of the region. The following sections offer a brief synopsis of the theme and programs offered each day.
Day One offers an overview of the park as well as focusing on technology and the natural history of the region. Students start their day off with a GPS activity that will allow them to explore several locations through out the park. Later in the day the students will spend time hiking through Natural Tunnel via Stock Creek, discussing the geological processes that formed the tunnel and an introduction to the karst topography of the region. While on the hike, students will have the opportunity to participate in an invertebrate study along Stock Creek.
That evening the students will have the opportunity to view the night sky at an astronomy program.
Day Two focuses mainly on the cultural history of the region. During the morning students will have the opportunity to step back 200 years ago with a few programs at the Wilderness Road Blockhouse. There they will meet a couple of frontier women making clothing from wool and linen. Students will experience the steps that go into each process and the hard work that goes into each step.
In the afternoon students will learn how to canoe and snorkel. Snorkeling expedition introduces the students to the biological diversity and importance of the Clinch River to Southwest Virginia. That evening students will enjoy a hayride along Fincastle Road followed by a campfire at the Blockhouse.
Day Three will focus on Southwest Virginia’s natural environment. Students will spend a day at Falls of Little Stoney exploring sandstone bluffs, wildflowers, wildlife and the Falls.
The Nature Trek 360° program in 2010 ran three sessions serving 54 students. All program fees, supplies, meals and lodging were included in the fee paid by the school system. One male and one female teacher are provided by the school system as overnight chaperons. Students stay in the lodges at the Cove Ridge Center. The meals are cooked by Cove Ridge staff, and students are responsible for setting up meals and snacks, as well as cleaning up afterward and taking out trash.
The response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive over the past 4 years. Students ask if they could come back the next summer, the superintendent has received calls from several parents to let him know how much their children enjoyed the program, and teachers told park staff they overheard the students talking about the program when school began in the fall. One parent said her son came home from the park and immediately went to the creek on their property to see what animals he could find. Our goal is for the Nature Trek 360° program to provide a student’s first step towards the “nature medicine” needed to begin curing today’s children of Nature Deficit Disorder.