Blue Ridge

“Little Girl Magnolia”

This morning we had the privilege of exploring the NC Arboretum grounds, where we saw a wide variety of plants, lizards, and tadpoles. After a quick stroll through the Bonsai forest including one piece created to look like the spruce fir forest of Mount Mitchell, Dr. Mildred Barya of UNC-Asheville led us through a powerful poetry exercise.

First, we read “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver to inspire our inner writer. The group dissected the poem and made personal connections to the theme and the healing powers of the natural world. Then, we were tasked with constructing our own poem in just 20 minutes! The caveat: we had to use 4 out of 7 words provided AND all of the five senses in our writing. The theme would be around motion and stillness. Take a look at Sandy’s beautiful poem:

Little Girl Magnolia

Your outstretched, bent, and gnarled


shield the musty, decaying

world beneath.

With leaves of velvet, fluttering

and filtering the searing heat

from above.

The vibrant abundance of your

chartreuse family rid me of

my loneliness.

Allowing me to escape the

despair that once bound me.

Your cool, wispy shade

envelops my body and

restores my hope.

That one day the inner,

ancient voices that haunt

me will seize.

And I will again savor

the sweet honey of peace.

We ended the day with a short hike to Black Balsam where we were rewarded with indescribable views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

(We are still unable to post pictures. We wish we could share some visuals with you now, and we will as soon as we can!)

Blue Ridge

“Obey Your Way”

“Obey your way” – Dr. Mildred Barya

The team packed up camp at Briar Bottom and headed along the Blue Ridge Parkway towards Asheville for a day at the NC Arboretum.  Arboretum educator Michelle Pearce spent a few hours with us sharing about Citizen Science.  Our view of what we experience in the natural world expanded from our own perspective to the greater world and a bigger picture where all can contribute to the scientific community thanks to technology.  She also gave us a tour of the gardens and engaged the group in activities that we can transfer to our classroom.

Group of teachers standing on the grass

A tree growth game we played with Michelle

We enjoyed a catered lunch on the patio at the education center and then had a delightful afternoon with Dr. Mildred Barya, a professor at UNC Asheville who shared her gift of poetry with our team.  She beautifully led us through a process of engaging our senses in order to create an original poem true to ourselves.  Her approach was surprisingly personal to each team member and we were all moved and inspired by the experience.

Dr. Mildred Barya (UNC Asheville) leads us in a creative writing exercise

We traveled on to Mount Pisgah campground and set up our tents right before the rain.  We shared dinner together and then had our evening meeting.  As we talked, we were in agreement that the group has been wonderfully cohesive and each person has been willing and able to personally share themselves in a meaningful way.  We were twelve strangers from across the state just a few days ago.  But with our love of learning and the outdoors connecting us, we have found lots of fun and also refreshment for the soul.  We will go into the next school year as different educators because of this experience.  It is a unique week and we are all privileged to be a part of it.

The blog title for the day is “Obey your way,” a quote from Mildred.  She was directly speaking about us developing our poems that we wrote this afternoon.  However, this evening we all agreed that this is a fantastic motto for each of us personally.  We all have our different teaching styles and we need to be true to how we educate scholars best.

Mountains cloaked in mist

Our view at sunset from the Pisgah Inn