Belmont Elementary School students Morgan Breingan, Ava Hall and Zack Capra plant a rhododendron tree, donated by Appletree Nursery of Belmont, in observance of Earth Day.
By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BELMONT — While nearly all of the elementary school Tigers started out trotting on the woodsy trail behind the school, most of them returned walking. But it doesn't matter how fast or slow, they went because they were all outside celebrating Earth Day Friday.
With 15 minutes in between, each class came from the school and met with teacher Danielle Embree before embarking on their trot through the trails at the school. After a brief ceremony the now fresh-faced children each got a crabapple tree sapling to plant when they get home, courtesy of the Green Club.
"We are just celebrating that we have a nature trail," said Associate Principal Ben Hill, who was at the end of the trail in the baseball field to high five, fist bump or verbally congratulate every student who walked the mile-plus Tiger Trail. A water station was set up and each got a drink after their run and deposited the cup in the recycling bin.
This is the first year of the Tiger Trot, which is a program designed to get students outside, moving around, and enjoying the healthy living program promoted by the entire Shaker School District. On Thursday, the Plymouth State University Tiger Drama team performed "Every Day is Earth Day" and through out the month students have been working on grade-appropriate projects in preparation for the day.
While all of the students participated, the student leaders come from Embree's running club, which she started to better prepare the willing students to participate athletically in more organized sports at the middle and high school levels.
Embree said the school partners with Prescott Farm with its outdoor classroom, and have worked on age-appropriate projects like building bird houses.
Waiting in the shade of the outdoor classroom were trot leaders 10-year-old Ricky, 10-year-old Brianna and 9-year-old "but almost 10" Bree.
"I love running. It's hard but ..." said Brianna as her voice trailed off. She said the most important thing as a leader is to be responsible and listen to the teachers, who were strategically placed along the trail to help anyone whose shoe came untied or suffered any other calamity.
"It's running," said Bree.
Ricky described himself as a "gamer boy" but said he stays in shape by running.
All of them said that the things they have watch for are ticks, big rocks, tree stumps and roots.
The intricate trail system was started by retired Belmont Elementary School teacher Judy Perrier and is named for her. Once named the New Hampshire Science Teacher of the Year, she said the project began in the early 1990s when she realized that there was 50 acres of land at the new Belmont Elementary School, and some of it was geologically unique.
Helped by Sumner Dole, a former Shaker Regional School Board member and forest research educator at UNH, they identified a "glacial erratic" or an extra large boulder of a different type of native rock material left behind by glacial ice. They also identified streams and their beginnings and set out tags to identify educational items they could teach to students.
Perrier said a great deal of the back-breaking work was done by the inmates at the former N.H. State Prison in Laconia calling themselves the Shocking Conservation, while teachers, volunteers and some sixth-graders helped actually create the trails.
Altogether, they built two bridges to span two of the larger streams, and Perrier said she taught her third-grade class how to identify where the streams come from, how water runs into the Tioga River, and eventually into the Merrimack River. She said students made boats and documents the journeys through the use of topographical maps.
Teacher Karen Gingrich organized and marked the significant spots and stops along the trail with metal placards of a tiger's foot.
While Friday's run was as much about healthy living as it was about Earth Day, Embree said that being outside on a lovely spring day was one of the best things the district could do for its students.
Belmont Elementary School students run on the Perrier Tiger Trail, honoring Earth Day, on Friday.
Below, Judy Perrier, namesake of the Perrier Tiger Trail at Belmont Elementary School, listens as students are instructed about the nature walk they’re about to embark on.
(Alan MacRae photos/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
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