Mount Major Outdoor Classroom
October is often the busiest month of the year at Mt Major and particularly for the NH elementary and middle schools partnering with the Forest Society as we offer the autumn season of in-school and on-mountainpresentations we call our "Mount Major Outdoor Classroom."
The FREE program includes an in-school pre-hike presentation component and the on-mountain hike with Forest Society volunteers along to help with learning and the Mount Major experience.
The parking lot becomes a busy place during the middle two weeks of October - leading up to Columbus Day Weekend and the following week as schools (and leaf peeper tourists) seek the "peak foliage" window in the Lakes Region.
The autumn 2019 schools
Forest Society education staff visited 7 different NH schools this autumn to present our pre-hike program about the various trails, land conservation at Mt Major, geology, human history, wildlife, trees and forests and along-the-trail features to watch for at Mt Major.
The seven schools hiking with us this autumn have included:
- Cornerstone Montessori School in Stratham,
- Belmont Elementary School, Belmont
- Barrington Elementary School, Barrington
- Gilmanton Elementary School, Gilmanton
- Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, Concord
- Little Harbor Elementary School, Portsmouth
- Barnstead Middle School, Barnstead
Teachers from these schools recognize the value hiking Mt Major as a school year enrichment activity, a unique learning opportunity and creation of a local "sense of place" with this formative experience hiking the ever-popular Mount Major as an ideal gateway hike for upper elementary students along with parent chaperones and teachers forming each school's community culture. The annual Mt Major hike becomes a kind of touchstone for students many of whom invariably return to hike at Mt Major and other NH peaks as they eventually progress through High School and University.
The autumn 2019 Forest Society Mt Major hike volunteers
Volunteers point out the peaks and islands and towns around Lake Winnipesaukee and can talk more about the concepts shared at school and answer student (and chaperone or teacher) questions about their hike.
Active volunteers this autumn have included repeat visits by Russ Wilder and Dave Dumouchel of Alton. Volunteers Karen Barker, Pat Jones and Erin French have also hiked with schools this fall. We are extremely grateful to these volunteers for making this program possible.
The in-school program also introduces "Leave No Trace" principles and the "Hike Safe" program to encourage hiker responsibility for safety and awareness. At the mountain, the trained volunteer "hike helpers" assist with an informal presentations on the summit as schools eat lunch, take group photos and perform a litter patrol and clean-up.
Among many teachable moments are features of the hike including glacial boulders, trails experiencing heavy recreational hiking pressure leading to erosion issues, stonewalls, tree identification on the lower slopes and along the steeper upper ledges of the Blue "Main Trail."
The view is always popular. As are the stone cairns and the USGS benchmarks at the summit elevation of 1,786 above sea level. The most compelling story for many students is the history of Mr Phippen's hut built in 1925 with not one, but two different roofs blown away 'Wizard of Oz' style flipping end-over-end during the winters of 1926 and then again in 1928. Students explore the ruins of the stone hut and admire the views of the Belknap Range, Ossipee Range and the Sandwich Range in the White Mountains before descending to the parking lot.
If you know of NH schools or teachers that may be interested in hiking Mt Major and learning more about the natural and cultural history of the peak and the surrounding Belknap Range, please contact Dave Anderson, Senior Director of Education at The Forest Society. Danderson@forestsociety.org.
The response by NH schools in both the spring window and autumn window is great. We'd like to reach more of the schools already hiking at our Mt Major Forest Reservation.