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From Students to Stewards: A New School Trail Completed

Behind the Dexter Park School in Orange lies a hidden natural space. The woods contain a small trail, filled with flora and fauna of all sorts, that has the distinct feeling of being apart from civilization though the school sits not far away. This small trail, around a third of a mile in length, had fallen into disuse by teachers and students alike until the opportunity arose to repurpose it.

Over the past few years, previous TerraCorps members worked directly with the school to clean up and reroute the trail entirely onto the school property. Youth and teachers gathered in the spring of 2021 ready to clear brush, paint trail markers, mark paths, and ultimately create an entirely new trail. These students also spent the year learning about the local wildlife that could be found in their woods. They chose their favorites to highlight in informational signage using their own artwork and research. Thanks to a MA Department of Conservation and Recreation Trails grant, this artwork is now on display for all to see in the form of educational books based on four main topics: plants, insects, vertebrates, and conservation.

The Student Learning Loop at the Dexter Park School in Orange officially opened on Friday, May 6th. The ¼ mile loop trail will be used by both the neighboring Fisher Hill and Dexter Park Schools for outdoor education and will be open to the public for recreation outside of regular school hours.

Sixth grade teacher Angela Corey summed up the trail opening: “It was such a joy to see the culmination of all the hard work the students put in with the guidance of Mount Grace,” said Angela Corey, 6th grade teacher. “Last school year was challenging on many levels, but Mount Grace allowed us to get a breath of fresh air and to learn about the environment surrounding our campus”

The trail map can be downloaded below.

Three generations of TerraCorps Youth Education Coordinators have participated in this project, engaging nearly 200 students. Though the trail work itself is complete, the impacts will last far longer. Pictures from the grand opening event are below.