Working with Teresa Quinn’s fourth grade class from Bruceton Mills Elementary and Middle School, Old Hemlock has shown its ability to reach out into the community and build meaningful partnerships with its neighbors. After the class had read The Great Kapok Tree, a story in which a logger is persuaded by animals in a dream to spare a rainforest from destruction, Old Hemlock made a visit to the school and told the students the story of how George Bird Evans had done a similar thing in the children’s own neighborhood, buying back a large stand of old growth virgin hemlocks from a logging company; a beautiful forest that still stands today on the grounds of the Old Hemlock nature preserve. We also introduced the children to all the different kinds of animals that call Old Hemlock home during that meeting – those critters who would be talking to the slumbering logger in his dreams. Then, over the next few weeks, the fourth graders wrote their own story, each child taking a different animal, coloring a picture of it and writing the dialogue it would have with a logger who had come to tear down its home. Once the text and illustrations were complete, we returned to the school to help the students take pictures of their animals in front of a background depicting the actual forest which was saved by Evans. With all the photos taken and the written texts collected, we worked with West Virginia University to get enough copies printed and collated for each child to take one home.
Thus came their fieldtrip to Old Hemlock. Twenty-six excited students streamed off of their buss, eager to learn more about the man, animals, and trees that they had been writing about for the past couple of weeks. Working with two service-learning students who partnered with Old Hemlock for a communications class, we lead the students through a tree identification workshop, an interactive tour of the historic Revolutionary War-era cabin on the property, and a singalong. Then, after a snack, we handed out their books and each student took a turn reading his own unique contribution out loud for the group to hear.
Please enjoy the copy of their book we have included here: