High Peaks Makes For Great Community Service Idea for Middle Schoolers

group photo of middle school and adult volunteers

This past Saturday, Arthur Morgan School joined the NC High Peaks Trail Association to create  a new hiking trail at the Mayland Earth to Sky Park. It was a cold, wet miserable morning with harder rain on the approach.  The students and staff huddled in their rain jackets and used mattocks and shovels to clear a path that visitors would use on their way to the Bare Sky Observatory .  Many of them weren’t thrilled about being there. They wanted to be still sleeping in their beds or cuddled up on the couch watching movies.

Still they came.  They came because they wanted to give back to land they appreciate on their outdoor trips throughout the year. They came because they know ncHPta is a valuable organization that needs and deserves lots of support. They came because they recognized the value of community service.

Community Service Provides Real Life Learning

Middle schoolers want to feel valuable and be contributing members to their community. Bored with learning activities in which the only goal is to gain knowledge, these young adolescent crave opportunities in which they can actually make a difference. They want their work to matter and leave a positive impact on others.  That is why the ncHPta makes the perfect team up for the middle schoolers of AMS.

A Mutual Partnership

middle schoolers making a trailncHPta’s goals include advancing the public’s awareness and appreciation of nature by offering outdoor recreational activities in western North Carolina.  They organize hikes, host speakers, and keep hiking trails in good condition.  In order to receive the funding they require each year to keep their work going, the ncHPta needs a high number of volunteer hours. Volunteer participation demonstrates the community’s investment and interest in maintaining their wilderness areas. AMS helps them out each year by providing some of those volunteers. ncHPta helps AMS out by providing a valuable opportunity for real work in their community.

Community service helps middle schoolers feel like they part of something bigger than themselves. Although perhaps challenging in the moment, working outside on a cold, wet Saturday can help students build self-esteem and recognize the value they contain as individuals.  They are able to see the results of their unselfish efforts and interact directly with the people they are helping.

Jake Silver, AMS’s Outdoor Coordinator, really appreciates the opportunities working with ncHPta provides.  “It gives the students a sense of ownership and stewardship of the land.  We help build in them an ethic of maintaining the spaces they use for recreation. The students aren’t just raking leaves. They get to use real tools and do meaningful work building a trail that wasn’t there before.”

middle schooler making a trailCommunity Service Builds Confidence

The end of October is a busy time at Arthur Morgan School.  With just a few weeks left in the Fall Academic Unit, students and teachers are preparing their Open House presentations and portfolio pieces. They also need to memorize their lines for the Scholarship Benefit play and get campus ready for their parents. They need to finish preserving pumpkins and sweet potatoes and prep the boarding houses for winter.

It would have been tempting for the staff and students to spend a rainy Saturday sitting inside and resting, but the community chose to do something different.  They chose to give back and, by doing so,  gained valuable a life experience.