• Jonathon Hartsell leads a group of students from Tri-County Christian School through the Toe River during the annual Toes in the Toe Watershed Discovery event.
    Jonathon Hartsell leads a group of students from Tri-County Christian School through the Toe River during the annual Toes in the Toe Watershed Discovery event.

TOES IN THE TOE: Students get hands-on with nature

SPRUCE PINE – Local students got hands-on with nature Thursday, Sept. 26, and Friday, Sept. 27, during the annual Toes in the Toe Watershed Discovery event at Riverside Park.

Upon arrival just before 9 a.m., students were broken into five groups. Each group spent 35 minutes in each of the event’s five modules that were all centered around allowing students to learn about nature through activities.

In some modules, students caught live creatures, and in others, they got up close and personal with nature-themed art.

In the fantastic fish and water bug safari modules, students waded into the river to catch fish and bugs with the assistance of volunteers. Students smiled and laughed as they filled buckets and containers with creatures and learned about the different species they had just caught.

The other three modules – our water, our watershed, bees and pollinators and exploring nature through art-- presented a more traditional learning experience where students listened to a speaker and then created their own projects. 

Volunteers from Penland School of Craft helped run the exploring nature through art module as part of the school’s community collaboration efforts. 

The event concluded just before 1 p.m. with students convening for lunch.

Jonathon Hartsell, executive director of the nonprofit group Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development, was one of several volunteers who helped students wade into the water and catch fish. 

Hartsell said seeing children have fun with nature is exciting to witness. 

“It’s so great,” Hartsell said. “A lot of them have never held a fish or don’t know that these bugs even exist in the river.”

Along with Bowman Middle, students from Tri-County Christian School and the Spruce Pine Montessori School enjoyed the event Thursday, Sept. 26. 

Harris Middle School students participated during the next day. The event was in Yancey County at Patience Park on the South Toe River Sept. 19 and 20.  

Hartsell said Toes in the Toe offers lasting memories. 

“We’ve seen people from the earliest years of the festival who are now grown up,” Hartsell said. “They still remember their time at the festival, and that’s great.”

Toes in the Toe is made possible with the help of volunteers and the support of the Toe River Watershed Partnership, Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, River Link, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and Penland School of Craft.

The MItchell News

Mailing Address: PO Box 339 
Spruce Pine, NC 28777 
Phone: 828-765-7169
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