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Kimora Anthony likes to be outside in nature.
Kimora, a 9-year-old from Vick Elementary School, was one of the more than 260 fourth-graders who attended the Environmental Field Day at the Batts Tree Farm in Wilson County this week.
“My favorite part was when we had to figure out which skin the animal belonged to,” Kimora said after experiencing what it felt like to touch the pelts of a coyote, a red fox, a beaver, a skunk and a squirrel.
“It was like furry and soft,” Kimora said.
Those and other interesting items were on a station on wildlife manned by Karen Coleman of the Wilson County Farm Service Agency. The station featured wildlife that one could possibly encounter in Wilson County, such as a whitetail deer, Eastern box turtle, pileated woodpecker or copperhead snake.
“The children enjoy the wildlife,” Coleman said. “Some of them have never seen these animals in real life, and they get to see what can actually be here in Wilson County.”
The field day, held Tuesday through Thursday, was attended by students from Vick, Community Christian, Lucama, Gardners and Rock Ridge elementary schools.
According to Norman Harrell, the event is held each April to coincide with National Environmental Education Week.
“We have different stations related to the environment to increase their knowledge and maybe just expose them to these different areas,” Harrell said.
Harrell, who is the director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Wilson County, helped man a station about plants and seeds.
“We talked about the different crops that are grown in Wilson County and the uses of them,” Harrell said. “We also have an aquatic station, soils, upland wildlife and soil conservation. All of these things tie in to be very important for our environment.”
Ricky Hayes, director of Wilson County Soil and Water Conservation District, said most students do not have a clue what wildlife is about.
“They don’t know where they live. They don’t know where they are born. They don’t know where they are raised,” Hayes said. “They have all got to come from areas with good water quality. That’s the main thing. Wetlands are just like a big nursery for the wild animals and everything that we have. It completes the food chain. They nest out here. They breed out here. They feed out here, and without the good water quality, you wouldn’t have any of the animals.”
Brandon Webb, head ranger at the North Carolina Forest Service office in Wilson County, said a lot of these kids don’t get to get out an experience these aspects of nature.
“It’s good for these kids to know where forest products are used and how agricultural products are used daily,” Webb said. “At this age they are very impressionable. They pick up on it good. They are old enough to where they are able to start realizing that everything doesn’t come from a grocery store.”
Dwight Batts, 2014 National Tree Farmer of the Year and owner of Batts Tree Farm, offered his family property as a venue for the field day because the family has a strong belief in education.
“My mother and three of my sisters and two of my daughters are involved in education,” Batts said.
“When it comes to conservation and wildlife, we have tried to connect using wildlife to connect our grandchildren to the land and what the benefits of the land are and how important it is to take care of it. When this opportunity came up, we believed that this was just the most perfect opportunity we could find to do that process more than just with our family but with the community.”
The students walked along pathways through towering stands of 30-year-old loblolly pine trees and 16-year-old long leaf pine trees.
Tineeta Barnes, a fourth-grade exceptional children assistant language facilitator, said the field trip was a hit with the children.
“It gives them more ways to explore outdoors and see it hands-on. It makes them want to learn more,” Barnes said. “They are going to ask questions, ‘What’s this?’ ‘What’s that?’ It’s good to ask questions. I think that it sticks to them more. This is a great field trip.”
“I think they want to learn more being out in the environment understanding how things work instead of just reading it in a book,” said Vielka Givens, an intervention specialist at Vick.
Givens said the trip gave students a better understanding of what they are learning in the classroom.
Student Desare King, 10, said she enjoyed the activities.
“It taught me stuff I didn’t really know was made out of wood, like toothpaste,” King said. “That’s weird.”