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Muddy Sneakers: Bringing Science to Life Right in Our Own Backyard

“I wish every day was a Muddy Sneakers day!” Tara Hammond, fifth-grade teacher at Hillandale Elementary, overheard from one of her students. Fifth graders from six of our elementary schools are participating this year in the outdoor education program, Muddy Sneakers. From all of the positive feedback we’ve received, it seems that the students AND the teachers feel the same as Ms. Hammond’s student.

“I cannot say enough about the amazing experience our students are having on our Muddy Sneakers expeditions! Connecting the information we’re learning in class with real world examples is invaluable. Many of our students are getting to explore the forest for the first time in their lives and realizing what a beautiful area we live in,” says Kristi Duckett, Hendersonville Elementary School, fifth-grade teacher.

The Muddy Sneakers program is an outdoor, experiential science education program that reinforces the state science curriculum with outdoor classroom experiences. Our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains have become an outdoor classroom for many of our Henderson County fifth graders as well as fifth graders in 16 other counties in Western North Carolina and the Piedmont. These students get to experience six Muddy Sneakers days per school year.

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With Bo Caldwell, Superintendent of Henderson County Public Schools, as a major advocate for the program, financial backing from the Henderson County Education Foundation, and a generous donation of $15,000 from Chuck and Jean McGrady, Muddy Sneakers was made available this year to Atkinson, Clear Creek, Edneyville, Hendersonville Elementary, Sugarloaf, and Upward Elementary Schools. Founding member and North Carolina General Assembly representative, Chuck McGrady, says “Muddy Sneakers is a great program that gets kids out in the woods or in the streams to learn biology and science. I’m glad to partner with the Henderson County School System to make the program available to our kids.” While various schools in our county have participated in Muddy Sneakers since its inception in 2007, this is a record year with six of our schools participating.

“Muddy Sneakers brings science to life right here in our backyard. Students get so excited when they can connect their background knowledge on local ecology with what we are learning in the classroom. We as teachers love to see the pure joy on our expeditions as they unwrap the wonders of our world,” says Alexandria Hall, fifth-grade teacher at Atkinson Elementary School

As one of Ms. Dukett’s students sat by a waterfall, they said, “I need more of this.” Don’t we all.

To learn more about the Muddy Sneakers program, visit www.muddysneakers.org.