School's Tradition Reminds Us Why Land Conservation Matters
Mount Major is the annual destination of the fourth grade classes of Portsmouth's Little Harbour Elementary School (LHES). The Forest Society is in year two of partnering with Little Harbour in our pilot program to bring more environmental education to the excellent exercise afforded by climbing one of N.H.'s most beloved mountain peaks.
Forest Society Education Director Dave Anderson visited the LHES students and their parent chaperones before their hike to provide an introducation to the geology, forests, wildlife, history and ecology of Mount Major. The presentation included tips for safe hiking and trail etiquette, as well as an introduction to the trails and stewardship opportunities.
Autumn is an annual high water mark for N.H. hiking. The spectacular fall foliage and cooler, less humid weather make for ideal scenery and comfort. Two of the most popular peaks in New Hampshire -- Mount Monadnock with an estimated 100,000 visitors and Mount Major with an estimated 80,000 visitors -- experience peak crowds on Columbus Day Weekend. This October was no exception with excellent weather conditions and very busy trails at these locations, both of which have greatly benefitted from the Forest Society's land conservation work done in conjunction with partner groups and agencies.
The Forest Society's "Mount Major Outdoor Classroom" pilot program is working to create new learning opportunities by partnering with schools that are already visiting Mount Major to hike. Our hiking primer provides not only important ecological information but also a glimpse at the features students will see on their hike.
Once at the mountain, students take time to look for those features and deepen their knowledge of trees and forests. Students pick up litter before leaving the summit and descending to the parking lot. There is a great sense of community cameraderie as students cheer on their friends and teachers arriving at the summit.
Some perennially popular features to find include the USGS benchmarks and the remains of "Mr. Phippen's Hut," the stone hut shelter at the summit.
Students arrive at the mountain prepared to hike, have fun and find those features they learned about in the Forest Society's pre-hike presentation.
Little Harbour School PE teacher Sean McGrimley is a key liaison who organizes the annual hike. A great fourth-grade team of teachers, the parent chaperones and supportive school leaders make this experience possible. Funding from the Dorr Foundation and an anonymous donor supports the pilot project.
Many schools in the Seacoast Region and lower Merrimack Valley and Central Lakes Region have similar long standing traditions of hiking Mount Major each autumn.
When Forest Society staff and volunteers, including those from the Lakes Region Conservation Trust and the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition, began to actively engage the hiking public at Mount Major in 2013 and 2014 - conducting car counts, hiker surveys and raising the funds to purchase key tracts both on and near Mt Major and in the Belknap Range -- the recurring connections between certain school communities and Mount Major began to become apparent.
The Forest Society is seeking new opportunities to expand the in-school presentations to engage more schools hiking at Mount Major to improve hiking safety, trail etiquette and engagement in collective stewardship of the extremely popular and much-loved peak. If you know schools and teachers who may be interested, please contact Dave Anderson at email@example.com