Students at Cove Creek School are set to spend a little more time in the creek thanks to a donation from Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development, a non-profit that works to study and protect natural resources in Northwest North Carolina.

The organization recently donated 35 pairs of water shoes to second graders at the school.

Cove Creek sits on a plot of several acres on Vanderpool Road in Vilas. The school building, playground, track and gym are obvious features to passersby, but perhaps the school’s best-kept secret is a large tract of woods and creek access along the back of the property.

Thanks to their surroundings, students at Cove Creek are uniquely situated to learn about their environment by taking their science classes out into the field and getting first hand experience in their local ecosystem.

Cove Creek Second Grade Teacher Tiffany Reece said her students are fortunate to have access to such a wealth of natural resources at their school, but spending the school day in wet shoes after an adventure in the creek didn’t make for a very comfortable afternoon. Reece said the water shoes will allow students to leave their street shoes in the classroom and explore to their heart’s content.

“In second grade, we study animal life cycles,” Reece said. “The creek is a perfect opportunity for us to integrate aquatic animals into our curriculum. We are so fortunate to have access to the creek, as well as have the partnership of organizations like the Blue Ridge RC&D that are willing to share their resources and knowledge with us.”

Jessica Janc, High Country Watershed Coordinator with the Blue Ridge RD&C, said the organization saw helping Mrs. Reece’s students as a perfect way to further their mission to educate about and protect natural resources.

“I think that experiential learning — especially in the fields of science and environmental education is incredibly valuable to students,” Janc said. “It really creates a memorable experience for them, one they are able to tie to the things they are learning in their classrooms. We thought donating these shoes and helping students get out into the field was an excellent way to give back to our community.”

Cove Creek Second-Graders’ field work in the creek represents the latest step in the school’s efforts to expand its environmental education opportunities for students. Cove Creek is also home to an educational solar panel that supplies a portion of the school’s power, an environmental sustainability club called the Eco-Raiders and an indoor honey bee hive in the school library.

For more information, visit www.wataugaschools.org/cc.