I just spent two days with teachers in the Great Smoky Mountains on an Elk Trek. It was stunning! I can’t wait to take a group of Rainbow students to some of the same spots! We saw the head bull with his “harem.” We saw males sparring, heard bulls bugling, and watched their herd behavior in the frosty, below freezing high elevation weather. We were outside from 6 am in the morning until 7 pm at night, which is a great way to feel connected to Mother Earth.
We also learned about some of the effects of air pollution. Snails are believed to be negatively affected by air pollution, because acid rain causes calcium to be leached out of the soil, weakening their shells. Therefore, the snail population is a possible indicator of air quality. Ranger, Susan Sachs, trained us to identify various species of snails. We hunted for snails and collected the data. I found the smallest one — about the size of a pinhead.
Also affected by air pollution are lichens. In teams, we measured the growth and/or decline of lichen on specific trees. Did you know there are over 100 varieties of lichen in the Smoky Mountains?