In the fourth week of service projects, Gap students traveled to Highlands, North Carolina to learn about the sustainability of environmental management and food sourcing in another rural Appalachian community. Students were joined by Dr. Carol Smith, PhD from the Health and Human Performance department for a week working with a variety of different organizations performing different tasks each day.
The focus on sustainability of environmental management gave students the opportunity to learn about forest & park maintenance and headwater stream health and how to evaluate it as well. The group worked together to widen a trail in the Panthertown Valley used for hikers and mountain bikers. After hiking through wilderness territories with NOLS, the opportunity to perform trail maintenance was a great opportunity to give back to those that will use the trail. Working with the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, students learned how to evaluate headwater stream health and visited 6 different sites in order to test their new found knowledge.
Food sourcing in western North Carolina proved to be very different than the service week in Saint Louis, MO. Students worked on an organic farm at The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center helping to winterize the grounds and chicken coop. They saw how one organization works to supplement their own food needs throughout the year and prepare for each season. They also worked with Community Table, an organization that provides food boxes and freshly prepared meals to the community in Sylva, NC. Students worked to prepare both the boxes and meals for the community and eventually helped take orders, serve food, clear tables and even wash dishes. Students learned much for the regular volunteers as well as through interaction with community members.
At the end of the week, students returned home for fall break and will meet back with the group to begin studies in Costa Rica where they will live with host families near the Elon Centre.