Adventure Pocahontas

Tracey Valach, a parent and local resident, approached Superintendent Terrence Beam of Pocahontas County Schools in the spring of 2021 about an adventure-based program for Pocahontas County Schools students in second through fifth grades.  Her excitement, organization, and attention to detail were remarkable and the adventure planning began.  Four adventure days for each grade are scheduled around the county and promote the program’s mission:  Cultivating our mountain community and strengthening the mountain culture by fostering a love of Pocahontas County, West Virginia through outdoor recreation and experiential learning opportunities. 

Mrs. Valach worked with teachers and presenters to ensure that activities cover grade-level standards and created units of studies for the adventures. Many local and regional organizations and businesses partnered to provide interactive sessions.  The WV Department of Environmental Protection, US Forest Service, WVU Extension’s 4-H, Snowshoe Mountain Resort, the Green Bank Observatory, Pocahontas County Libraries, Pocahontas County Memorial, Pocahontas Count Convention and Visitors Bureau, and numerous small businesses presented material on adventure days.  She secured funding from Snowshoe Mountain for safety items such as bike helmets, life jackets, and ski helmets for participants to keep at the end of their program.  Funding for the program came from grants and sponsorships including the Pocahontas County Board of Education, Snowshoe Foundation, BeActive WV, Share Winter Foundation, and many local businesses and philanthropic groups.

Adventure Pocahontas kicked off on September 2, 2021, at Watoga State Park with all fourth graders in Pocahontas County starting their boating adventure by learning water safety and kayaking, creating a mural for the park, starting the Know Your State 4-H project with the WVU Extension Service, and studying various water species with the park ranger.  Fourth graders continued their adventure with fly and spin fishing, freshwater snorkeling, and kayaking, nutrition, STEM activities, and more.  Students traveled to Snowshoe Mountain Resort, the Greenbrier River Trail, and the Cass State Park.

Fifth graders were the second group to take on their solar system and health adventure with mountain biking during the month of October.  Snowshoe Mountain Bike Park, Camp Hidden Meadows, Stilwell Park, and the Green Bank Observatory were the fifth-grade adventure locations.  Health Rocks 4-H curriculum and the Green Bank Observatory scientist were weekly sessions.  Mountain biking was taught each week in partnership with the new middle through high school bike teams coaches, the Cheat Mountain Salamander NICA team.  Students even learned about simple machines and used a bicycle-powered blender to make smoothies!

Second graders will visit Snowshoe for a winter adventure on weather and literacy as they learn to ski.  This portion of the adventure program is funded by Share Winter Foundation, Allterra, Snowshoe Mountain, and The North Face.  The adventures will wrap up in the spring with third graders and their hiking adventure focusing on ecosystems and plant study.  A partnership with Wonder and Grow, a local mindfulness nature-based nonprofit will bring the students new ways to appreciate our beautiful county.  Students will also be working on a pottery project with a local artisan and creating their own poetry!

This program is completely free to students through the support of Pocahontas County Schools, numerous community partners, donors, and volunteers.  We have had 100% of our students sign up and return all required paperwork.  Parent feedback has been a beautiful thing to hear.

We asked parents to participate in a post-adventure survey.  This survey includes a question that asks parents, “Has this program positively impacted how you feel about living in Pocahontas County?” unanimously parents have responded, YES!  91% of parents reported that their child has asked to explore the county more since participating in the program. The survey also shows that 100% of the parents agree that this program was a good use of their child’s school day and additionally that they felt their child was safe.  Teachers all reported that their material was relevant to what they are teaching this year, their students were safe and engaged.  One teacher commented, “I can’t wait to participate again next year and look forward to seeing the program grow!”  and another said, “I hope we can do this every year!” 

Tracey Valach’s vision that “not all classrooms have four walls” has come to life for the students in Pocahontas County Schools.  For more information, you may contact Tracey at naturesmountainclassroom@gmail.com 

Also in the news...

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection featured Adventure Pocahontas:  

A new school program in Pocahontas County has students excited. Adventure Pocahontas is a program of Nature’s Mountain Classroom and takes advantage of several education and outreach programs, including the DEP's Project WET, Save Our Streams, and the Youth Environmental Program.

https://nam10.safelinks.protec...