Students learn about natural, cultural resources of Hitchcock Woods during Field Day activities

September 21, 2018

For sixth-graders from Tall Pines STEM Academy and teenagers from Town Creek Christian Academy, one of the nation’s largest urban forests served as an outdoor classroom Thursday.

During the fourth annual Festival of the Woods Field Day, those students got an opportunity to hike in Hitchcock Woods, which covers more than 2,000 acres in Aiken, and learn about its natural and cultural resources.

“We want to introduce kids to Hitchcock Woods who have never been here before and make them aware that this is a place they can enjoy 365 days of the year for free,” said Hitchcock Woods Executive Director Christine Rolka. “For those who have been to Hitchcock Woods before, we hope to make them see it a little bit differently and understand why it is so special to those of us who manage and protect it.”

The approximately 75 young Field Day participants visited one of the areas in the forest where endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers have been reintroduced.

They also tried out blowguns after listening to a talk about primitive hunting by archaeologist Sean Taylor of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, saw some of the artifacts that have been found in Hitchcock Woods and played for a while in the dirt during a simulated archaeological dig.

“I had never heard of that red-cockaded woodpecker bird before,” said Tall Pines sixth-grader Sophia Overstreet. “I thought that was cool.”

In addition, the students got some hands-on experience in railroad track construction.

Local railroad historian and enthusiast Howard Wayt told them that remnants of tracks built in the 1830s could be found in Hitchcock Woods. He also showed them an almost exact replica of a 20-foot-long section of wooden track from that period.

“This is not a toy,” Wayt said. “This is a real thing.”

Then, with Wayt supervising, Field Day participants lifted the replica’s rails, placed them in notches and pounded wedges with a mallet to make sure the rails stayed where they had been put.

Said Tall Pines sixth-grader Maddie Hopkins of the activity: “I liked it because we got to see how people actually built the railroad back in the good old days.”

Zoe Walker, another student from Tall Pines, said she had fun “because we all worked together to build a railroad.”

For more information about Hitchcock Woods, call 803-642-0528 or visit hitchcockwoods.org.

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