“Is all this true?!” “Awesome!” “I wonder how they carved those boxwoods.” “Most of us have never been that close to a big water fountain.” “It was so cool to see all this in person!”
These are just a few of the quotes from students who visited Hills & Dales Estate this past spring. In all, over 500 students participated in an educational field trip that is offered free of charge to all fifth graders in Troup County.
What originally started as a garden education outing in 1999 has since expanded to a comprehensive hands-on experience that is tied into the fifth grade curriculum. According to Sondra Bowie who heads up the program, “Students in every Troup County school, public, private and home schooled, are invited to participate.” Once a school decides to participate, each student is provided a pre-visit “fact sheet” that contains pictures and information about the history of the estate and the people who have lived here. This gives the teachers a chance to familiarize the students with Hills & Dales Estate prior to their excursion. When the students arrive they are divided into three groups and escorted to different activity stations. Each activity was designed to provide a hands-on and fun-filled encounter which complements their classroom learning.
At station one students watch a 14 minute film about the estate, then participate in a scavenger “fact hunt” at the Visitor Center. At the second stop students participate in a “tree walk” where everyone measures the circumference of a tree and learns how to use a clinometer to determine how tall a tree is. They also study leaves to identify several kinds of trees and count rings to determine the tree’s age. At the “herb station” students learn about the use of plants in producing clothes, medicines and many other economic products. They also crush and sniff different herbs in a “mortar and pestle” and walk in the garden to identify different herbs.
According to Bowie, “It is heartwarming to help the students learn about the history of the estate. Knowing how much Fuller and Alice Callaway valued education, I think they would be pleased that so many students are participating in the program. This is one way to reach out and give back to the community.” In the words of one student, “This is the best field trip ever.” What could be more rewarding than that?