Students have nature walk at Griffith Woods Tuesday

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By Kate Darnell

Two yellow school buses pulled into Griffith Woods driveway Tuesday afternoon, and over 50 Eastside Elementary third-graders marched out.

"Smell the grass," one girl said to a classmate.

Despite living in a rural county, one teacher pointed out, some students werent used to the great outdoors.

"Shes a city girl," said teacher Shelley Slade.

Teacher and student laughed.

"You're going to see trees that are very old," Melinda Boyer said, with a tall walking stick in hand.

Boyer, along with many others, are part of the Friends of Griffith Woods. The group works to maintain and preserve the 745 acre farm that is home to many unique plants and trees.

"Do you know what a savanna is?" another Friend of Griffith Woods, Teryl Tribble asked one student.

The group from Eastside is one of Griffith Woods' first, but Tribble hopes the third-graders will be the first of many more visitors to walk through the savanna.

"Taking care of a woods takes patience," Boyer said to the group. Despite the possible convenience of mowing the tall grass and underbrush, Boyer said smaller trees would also be cut in the process, a step that doesn't agree with the group's plan of reforestation.

High-school students in green shirts that spell "Heat" stand in the back. They make up another group - Harrison Environmental Action Team. The club is led by vocational teacher Mark Simms.

"Are you all learning, too?" Tribble asked the green-shirted high school group.

They nodded.

"There's a lot to know and learn about this place," Tribble said.

"You can see the old Griffith Tavern from here," Boyer said, pointing toward US 62 and the pond that once was referred to as a "bottomless lake."

"The pond dried up in the '80's," Boyer said, laughing. "So I guess it really wasn't bottomless."

Kathy Rush stands with a group of individual students, pointing and identifying a thrush.

"They've read about these, but now they finally get to see one," Rush said.

Besides studying the landscapes of Griffith Woods, the class also raised quails that will soon be placed in suitable wildlife environments.

The classes paused long enough to shake off ticks and take a picture in front of the world's largest and oldest chinquapin oak.

Boyer encouraged the students to touch the large trunk of the tree, but not the poison ivy that stood beside it.

"You're standing next to a tree that was here during the Civil War," Boyer said. "... and maybe even the Revolutionary War, who knows!"

The Friends of Griffith Woods will host a native-plant sale this Saturday from 1-4 p.m. at the tavern located on US 62. The sale will include rough-leaf dogwood and blue ash trees.