Mountain Heritage High School

CONNECTING EDUCATION AND NATURE

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Endangered Appalachian Elktoe Mussel Population Inspires Outdoor Classroom.

The classroom is located adjacent to the Cane River, which is home to one of the endangered Appalachian elktoe mussel’s few remaining populations. The presence of the mussel is therefore an indicator of good water quality, hence the interest in the project by the USFWS (which monitors endangered species) and NCDWR (which monitors water quality).

The project began as a collaboration between Mountain Heritage, the NC Division of Water Resources, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Plans for the classroom were donated by Warren Wilson College architect Steve Farrell. The joint efforts of several individuals, including Colby Martin from Yancey County Schools, Jonathan Hartsell from Blue Ridge RC&D, Scott Thomas from Yancey Soil and Water, and interns from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, secured the majority of the funds required for the project. Grants include USFWS Connecting People to Nature, Lowe’s Toolbox for Education, and NC Foundation for Soil and Water Conservation, supported by the Walmart Foundation. The balance has been met by donations from the MHHS Athletics Department, discounted labor from Mike Black Grading, discounted materials from The Bark House, and the hard work and dedication of MHHS carpentry teacher Jeremy Dotts and his construction trades students at Mountain Heritage.

Teachers at MHHS are excited about the prospect of getting students outside of the school building to learn. In addition to the many opportunities for science classes (testing water quality, investigating river bugs, cataloging native and invasive species, etc) the classroom will provide a quiet, reflective atmosphere for artwork, journal writing, small group band ensembles, inquiry-based math lessons, and more. The classroom consists of a covered pavilion with a concrete floor and picnic tables for sitting/working.

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