TREE-mendous lesson at Kump Center

Once again this week Nanci Bross-Fregonara and her husband Jim Fregonara from the Division of Natural Resources led a Summer Science program at Kump Education Center, but this week the topic was trees. The activities were so memorable that Y Day Campers told their parents about it, and it became a topic of conversation in water aerobics class at the Y pool last evening. Learning about nature is becoming a very active pastime in Elkins these days.

This week the visual piece de resistance was a cross section cut through the center of the ancient oak that had to be cut down in the center of Elkins City Park this winter. With a yard wide diameter, this cross section nearly covered the round table top in our classroom. On the wall beside this huge wooden cookie was a computerized diagram showing how tree rings offer a circular timeline that records the years a tree stands by watching over human activity.

The timeline was made by an AmeriCorps member to show what this 270-year-old tree could have experienced in its lifetime. If the tree was born 1751, it would have been here when Native Americans lived in the Tygart Valley. That oak tree was here when Washington helped to found the United States, when Lincoln signed the West Virginia statehood document, and when Armstrong took one great step for mankind on the moon.

Nanci asked the children to draw a circular timeline on a paper plate with rings to tell their own life story year by year since they were born. One parent told me at our water aerobics class that her son drew himself inside her belly in the center of the paper plate. Then he drew pictures of his favorite dogs in the small rings encircled by larger circles for his special childhood memories.

Y Day Campers went outdoors to see what treasures trees had dropped on the south lawn at Kump Center. After Nanci had told them that trees wear special seed pod jewels in the spring and early summer, the children found emerald balls of clustered sycamore seeds and golden winged maple seeds. There were light green apples starting to grow on the trees in the orchard, and some of last fall’s acorns and nuts were resting beside the garden wall.

Back in the learning lab kids used the stencils and plastic leaf rubbing templates provided by the DNR to create their own artis-TREE. They also tried rubbing the sides of crayons over sycamore leaves that were as big as our 8.5 x 11 typing paper. Their leaf rubbings helped children see how tree leaf veins look like the lines on human hands.

As Nanci said, the whole experience was “unbe-LEAF-able,” and it was a TREE-mendous learning opportunity for us all.


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