Nature is the Classroom for a Spartans Camping Excursion in Texas’ Western Hill Country

Guided by Upper School physics and engineering instructor Danielle Horton and Kurt Oehler, Upper School math instructor, the group of students camped at Love Creek Nature Preserve near Kerrville, Texas. The trip included hiking, searching for fossils in the Glen Rose formation and learning about the local ecosystem and sustainable land management practices. The preserve, named after the crystal-clear creek that runs through it, is home to cool canyons and flourishing native plants and wildlife and sits on the Edwards Plateau. 

Horton and Oehler worked together on coordinating this trip which expands a student’s exposure to the outdoors, which is the first priority. Horton explains the purpose of this adventure is multi-pronged.

“Second, getting students out of the classroom and into interactions with concerned researchers and conservationists, where they get the opportunity to rethink how we should treat and use natural areas and resources,” says Horton. “Hearing about and seeing the issues first hand really gets students to develop their own feelings on environmental issues.  Third, students learn some great skills on these trips - from cooking for a group to setting up a tent to starting a campfire.”
The students learned how to apply more than just their conservation knowledge during the trip. Their outdoor survival, camping and adaptability skills were also challenged. They were faced with what to do when huge thunderstorms rolled in one night. They quickly set up tents, which proved to be a fun bonding experience. The following morning, the team pitched in to help clear out land and old fencing where deer were getting trapped in the barbed wire. 
Later that day, the group visited Devil's Bathtub a natural swimming hole called the “Devil's Bathtub” and enjoyed lunch at the scenic spot. That afternoon, a naturalist, with a group called iNaturalist, led students on a hiking and bird watching adventure. The iNaturalist organization is an online social networking nonprofit that enables naturalists, citizen scientists and biologists to map and share what they observe while out in nature across the globe. The guide  taught the students how to use the iNaturalist app, by populating it with images of plants and animals from the preserve, helping other naturalists identify species. 
In the evenings, students got to try their hand at cooking dinner over a campfire and sat under the stars reminiscing about the long, productive days. They enjoyed s’mores together on the final night, and then it was time to head back to The Hill with hands-on experience, great memories, and most importantly, a better understanding of their role in preserving nature and its ecosystem in a different part of our state.
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