Being in the Woods: A Huddart Park Story


April 2016

The twisting journey up Kings Mountain Road to Huddart Park is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley. As the road climbs higher into the redwood forest, new sights, sounds, and smells emerge: sun filters down through the tall trees. Redwood, Douglas-firs, and oaks emit their woodsy smells. Flittering birdsong and the squawks of Stellar's Jays fill the air.

On a sunny April morning, six EV volunteers led 2nd graders from Addison School on a field trip at Huddart Park. Students bounded from their cars to prepare for the 2-hour hike, where they would explore how plants & animals adapt to their habitats. For the EV, Huddart Park is a perfect field trip for local classes who participate in the EV school programs. It's a living outdoor classroom--full of the sights, sounds, and smells of forest life.

 

John Seyfarth, a longtime volunteer, was one of the EVs leading this field trip. He explained why Huddart Park is a special place: “Huddart Park has great redwood habitats so it’s a good opportunity to go out and scramble around in some of the big redwood trees and see what a fairy ring looks like up close and personal.”

Volunteer Marianna Raymond added, “There are also lots of wonderful native trees to compare and contrast – there are Douglas-firs, there are several kinds of oak to compare, and ferns that live in moist environments. You can also observe decomposition with the shelf fungus; there is also the lichen and hopefully banana slugs; and we’ll look for turret spider burrows, and more. It’s a great place.”

For the students, one of the highlights of the trip was the infamous "Lizard Log." The students swarmed around the end of a fallen log, watching western fence lizards dart around in the protected interior. The students learned why the "Lizard Log" is a perfect home for lizards: it sits in the warm sun (which lizards like), it has a hollow center (great for hiding from big prey), and it sits in a big grassy field (full of spiders, beetles, and grasshoppers—their favorite food!).



Jesse Hall, an EV staff member who led a field trip group, said: “The boys on my trip loved the Lizard Log. They could spend hours right here and be perfectly content.”

Parent chaperone, Komey Vishakan was also delighted to get her son outdoors for the day. As former Co-President of Addison Elementary School's PTA, she values any experience that takes kids into nature.

“The whole field trip was really nice,” she said. “Just being in the woods, especially when our volunteer said, 'Stop and listen.' Because until then, nobody was stopping and listening. At that moment, I could hear so many different birds. So I thought the experience was just about taking the time to just forget about everything and listen – I think we learned a lot. That was really great. It’s educational as well as shows how much we take for granted in nature. I thought that was important for the kids to know that.”

Komey’s son, Yuvan, and his friends came up with a new song while tromping through the woods: “Ya, ya, ya!” They called out the simple phrase like woodsman as they linked arms and marched together down the narrow path. It’s a picture of childhood that is becoming less common, Komey says.


“When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time outdoors. I could tell you every little tree and plant in the yard, including fruit tree and flowers,” Komey explained. “Kids these days don’t do that. When I take my kids out and say let’s play outdoors for half an hour – when I turn my head, they’re back in doors wanting to watch TV. They don’t have that interest – perhaps because they didn’t develop it early enough. It’s like they need to get back in. It used to be the other way around. When I was a kid, you came back indoors just to eat or grab a drink of water. I don’t know how we can flip that. They have so many other things available to them – videogames and TV – its hard to compete with those.”

During their morning trip to Huddart Park, the script was flipped. For two hours, Addison students weren’t peering at their screens; they peered into fallen logs, hiked through redwoods, explored the creek, smelled bay laurel leaves (“It smells like bubblegum!”). Best of all, the students were asking questions about the natural world around them, learning about everything from scat to spider webs.

“I asked them to see if they could find a redwood cone,” Jesse Hall said. “They picked up everything they could find—except a redwood cone. And when they finally found one, it took them a couple of minutes to realize how small the cones are compared to how big the tree is. That was a good crystallizing moment.”










by Kristi Moos
Marketing and Communications Director