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Wisdom In Wonder: Students at Horizons Adventure in Nature This Summer

By Anna Grace Thrailkill


SALISBURY — “I found a mushroom!”

“I found a slug!”

“I found something fuzzy!”

Exclamations such as these could be heard on the Smith Exploratorium Nature Trail on Thursday morning from excited students who wanted to make their findings known.

The students are taking part in a weeklong day camp, “Out and About With Mr. Neil,” hosted by Horizons Unlimited, Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ supplementary learning center.

Horizons Unlimited has a planetarium, a rainforest exhibit and a well-maintained hiking trail behind its location, to name a few things.

Kids come to Horizons in the morning and spend the day hiking, making crafts, enjoying the planetarium, exploring the rainforest room, reading books, and learning about gardening and plants.

Students searched the woods on a “treasure hunt” Thursday morning to find objects that were on a list carried by their leader, Neil Pifer — “Mr. Neil.”

Objects on the list included something fuzzy, two kinds of seeds, something round, something straight and something that makes noise. All were objects that the students should have no trouble finding on the trail, which is rich with leaves, bugs and objects waiting to be picked up and examined by eager hands.

As the students walked the trail in the hot sun, they learned interesting facts about nature, such as what is safe to pick up and what is not, as well as learning about trail etiquette.

“What do we do when we hike in the woods, guys?” asked Mr. Neil.

“Stay on the trail,” a student named Nathan yelled out.

Abi Dreschler, a first-grade student, said with a grin on her face that her favorite part of hiking is “finding animals and treasures like roly polys. And the bugs.”

“It’s all about telling stories,” said Pifer, the planetarium director at Horizons as well as the organizer of the hike. “We might be hiking through the woods and then a student will see something that makes them think of a story that they want to tell me. The kids have great imaginations. So my favorite part of this job is definitely the stories — the ones that I get to hear and the ones that I can tell.”

“What do you guys think that our team name should be?” Mr. Neil asked the students as they headed out to the woods.

“The polar bears,” one student said.

“Every day at camp has a different theme,” Pifer explained, “and the Arctic is today’s theme.”

Amy Pruitt, the director of Horizons, takes kids out on the trails herself. Pruitt led students on an expedition Thursday morning.

“Seeing the wonder in their eyes is the best part for me,” she said. “And it’s important for me that we can get students outside to see science in action, teaching them how to use all of their senses and allowing them to be inquisitive — to ask as many questions as they want.”

Pruitt says a life mantra she goes by is, “Unplug and get dirty,” something that is on a sign she keeps on her office door as a reminder.

“There’s a balance between staying connected and unplugging,” she said. “I enjoy staying connected, but it’s also just important to get away and get outside.”

“We have a sign near the front of the building that says, ‘Wisdom in Wonder.’ And that’s what this is all about.”



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