On Thursday, December 7th, nine students from the Portsmouth Middle School Hiking Club paid a visit to the Woodland Wander Trail. The 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students arrived in a shiny yellow school bus around 2:00 p.m., accompanied by chaperones Jack Lyons and Leslie Ainsworth. REWHC volunteers Beth Ripa and Harry Mutter greeted the group warmly upon its arrival. Then it was time to hit the trail!
Harry Mutter began the hike by explaining that the forest on Raytheon's property was not always there. Only a few decades before farmland covered the area where the tall trees now stand. The trees were not planted--so just how did they get there? With this question the story of the forest and a wonderful interpretive walk through the woods began.
The afternoon was beautiful, sunny, and quite brisk. (Hats, gloves, and scarves were a must!) As Harry guided the group down the Woodland Wander Trail, he stopped along the way to point out various tree and shrub species, particularly those marked with interpretive trail signs. He shared each tree's story with the kids, everything from how it might have gotten there, to what makes it unique, to its Native American, colonial, and modern day uses. Harry's teaching style, complete with jokes and anecdotal stories, certainly proved effective--the students were very attentive as he pointed out examples of the Eastern Red Cedar, the Pin Cherry, the Wild Black Cherry, the Red Maple, Poison Ivy, the Gray Birch and the Tupelo, to name just a few. As the afternoon wore on the kids became more and more inclined to answer Harry's questions--it was heartening to watch their knowledge of trees (and the history of the site) grow exponentially. All the while, Tom Murphy kept himself busy snapping pictures of the day's events.
Eventually, around 3:45 p.m., the time came for the kids to return home. Good-byes were said as parents arrived on campus to take their children home. Even after the kids had departed, however, REWHC's work was not quite complete. A CD of all of the pictures that Tom had taken, one complete set of prints, and eleven copies of one of the group shots were given to the Hiking Club so that they could always remember their day on the Raytheon campus.
As Leslie commented in a note she later sent to Beth, the hike "was a valuable opportunity for the kids, not only for learning, but to see that a company like Raytheon has such environmental interests at heart." The Hiking Club hopes to come back for another walk in the spring. Mission status: success!