Ray School History‎ > ‎Nature Trail‎ > ‎

About Nature Trail

“Down yonder green valley where streamlets meander….” If there is anything at the Ray School that defines serene beauty, it is its nature trail. When one exits a back door of ihe school, all that can be seen is the world of nature. The school is located on over 20 acres of land which abuts the Storrs Pond Recreation Area. This incredible outdoor teaching station was recognized in the first days of the school. The first principal. Jerry Kaplan, created benches from logs and placed them in various locations and encouraged teachers to take children to the nature area. He would hold meetings in the Hemlock grove and the school held a ceremony in his honor when he left.

Having a nature trail in the backyard of the school is something the community was used to because when the elementary school was located on Lebanon Street, there was also a nature trail outside its door. In 1964, the Hanover Garden Club published a guide to the “Hanover School Nature Trail”. The introduction begins, “The children of Hanover have right in the backyard of their schools an outdoor museum unequaled by the vast majority of schools in this country….Becoming familiar with the local flora can be as rewarding as recognizing the faces around us.”

In a discussion of the origin of the valley near what is now Hanover High School, it is explained in the Garden Club’s guide, that a “…great ice sheet once covered all of New England….The glacial lake at Hanover was deep enough to have covered most of the tower at Baker Library.” This first guide was a wonderful telling of the area with its “…more than fifty species of wild flowers, thirty species of trees, and numerous shrubs, brambles, mosses, lichens and liverworts.” Because of all this, there are also many animals in the woods casual walkers will never see because besides subsisting on the plants, the animals use the greenery to hide in.

When the elementary school moved to its present location on Reservoir Road, it seemed natural to include the outdoor world in the curriculum. Once again, the school’s backyard was lush with the wonders of nature. When the school was first built the natural area behind it was mostly meadow with some forest and the hemlock grove. But without proper management, the forest soon began to overtake the meadow.
Help arrived in the fall of 1976, when a donation in memory of Judith Emory was given to the Ray School for the purpose of revitalizing the environmental program at the school.

In a dedication to Ms. Emory, it was said: “Judith Wallace Emory had her head down among ferns and boulders, on knees and elbows, holding a magnifying glass hoping not to miss anything. In the late 1960′s, in the happiest two years of her life, she helped teachers and children set up a program of nature studies at the Ray School. She died young, but her vitality and eagerness remain along the trails.” The project was masterminded by the Hanover Conservation Council and some Ray School teachers. This was the Ray School’s introduction to Allie Quinn, who maintained a longtime interest in the Nature Trail at the Ray School.
The first map “…to guide your steps….” included seven stops: the field, the white pine forest, the mixed forest, the brook, the edge, the hemlock forest and the pond.

In 1978, Carolyn Tenney and Jan Chapman along with a group of teachers under the leadership of Willy Black did some “…additional maintenance on the trail and produced a trial guide, the first of the teaching materials to be based on the natural area.”

The guide was dedicated to Judith Wallace Emory “…whose leadership, keen appreciation of the outdoor world, and love of children created the stimulus for our awareness of the need for this program.” This guide included lesson plans, suggested activities and available resources. The map of the trail included six areas: The hillside, the pine stand, the brook, the edge, the hemlock grove and the pond.

“Down yonder green valley where streamlets meander….” If there is anything at the Ray School that defines serene beauty, it is its nature trail. When one exits a back door of ihe school, all that can be seen is the world of nature. The school is located on over 20 acres of land which abuts the Storrs Pond Recreation Area. This incredible outdoor teaching station was recognized in the first days of the school. The first principal. Jerry Kaplan, created benches from logs and placed them in various locations and encouraged teachers to take children to the nature area. He would hold meetings in the Hemlock grove and the school held a ceremony in his honor when he left.

Having a nature trail in the backyard of the school is something the community was used to because when the elementary school was located on Lebanon Street, there was also a nature trail outside its door. In 1964, the Hanover Garden Club published a guide to the “Hanover School Nature Trail”. The introduction begins, “The children of Hanover have right in the backyard of their schools an outdoor museum unequaled by the vast majority of schools in this country….Becoming familiar with the local flora can be as rewarding as recognizing the faces around us.”

Students examine a bug on a leaf

In a discussion of the origin of the valley near what is now Hanover High School, it is explained in the Garden Club’s guide, that a “…great ice sheet once covered all of New England….The glacial lake at Hanover was deep enough to have covered most of the tower at Baker Library.” This first guide was a wonderful telling of the area with its “…more than fifty species of wild flowers, thirty species of trees, and numerous shrubs, brambles, mosses, lichens and liverworts.” Because of all this, there are also many animals in the woods casual walkers will never see because besides subsisting on the plants, the animals use the greenery to hide in.

When the elementary school moved to its present location on Reservoir Road, it seemed natural to include the outdoor world in the curriculum. Once again, the school’s backyard was lush with the wonders of nature. When the school was first built the natural area behind it was mostly meadow with some forest and the hemlock grove. But without proper management, the forest soon began to overtake the meadow.

Students collect data by the stream

Help arrived in the fall of 1976, when a donation in memory of Judith Emory was given to the Ray School for the purpose of revitalizing the environmental program at the school.

In a dedication to Ms. Emory, it was said: “Judith Wallace Emory had her head down among ferns and boulders, on knees and elbows, holding a magnifying glass hoping not to miss anything. In the late 1960′s, in the happiest two years of her life, she helped teachers and children set up a program of nature studies at the Ray School. She died young, but her vitality and eagerness remain along the trails.” The project was masterminded by the Hanover Conservation Council and some Ray School teachers. This was the Ray School’s introduction to Allie Quinn, who maintained a longtime interest in the Nature Trail at the Ray School.

Students observe a teacher near the pond

The first map “…to guide your steps….” included seven stops: the field, the white pine forest, the mixed forest, the brook, the edge, the hemlock forest and the pond.

In 1978, Carolyn Tenney and Jan Chapman along with a group of teachers under the leadership of Willy Black did some “…additional maintenance on the trail and produced a trial guide, the first of the teaching materials to be based on the natural area.”

The guide was dedicated to Judith Wallace Emory “…whose leadership, keen appreciation of the outdoor world, and love of children created the stimulus for our awareness of the need for this program.” This guide included lesson plans, suggested activities and available resources. The map of the trail included six areas: The hillside, the pine stand, the brook, the edge, the hemlock grove and the pond.

Students examine crayfish (???)

In a report drafted 9/19/1987, Evan Douple of Dartmouth College, stated quite firmly: “It is apparent that this piece of land represents a very important natural area. It is important to Hanover for both historical and environmental reasons and its proximity to the school is a unique asset. …If the Hanover School Board continues to judge that this natural area and the Judith Emory Nature Trail are important attributes to the Ray School and its educational programs, they should establish a firm policy that construction of permanent buildings anywhere on this parcel is inconsistent with the character of the use of this land is therefore prohibited. Furthermore, any use of this land should be prohibited if it in any way will detract from the intent of this parcel to be a unique ‘natural classroom’.”

In 1980, a new nature trail map was created by the Hanover Conservation Council, the Judy Emory Fund, and the Montshire Museum. Stefan Vogel, Principal, reported to the staff that there are “…seven ‘learning Stations along the trail two of which have been provided with bench seating for resting and teaching.” Elisabeth Tobiasson, Ray School parent, was instrumental in producing the detailed explanation of each area. This map included the field, the white pine forest, the mixed forest, the brook, the edge, the hemlock forest, and the pond.

In 1986, the Ray School science committee, along with parents, looked at the trail with a desire to learn more about how to maintain it as a natural area.

In 1987, the committee invited a biologist to evaluate the area. He reported that the “pond presently does not hold water year round.” The committee decided to follow through with his suggestion to dredge the pond and transplant aquatic vegetation from other wetlands into the pond.

“The nature trail itself is great,” the biologist reported. “It points out the different land types, succession stages of the forest etc.”

In the late 1990′s, consideration was given to the possibility of developing a fitness trail through the nature trail. After much deliberation, the “Use of Natural Land and Open Space” policy adopted by the School Board January 27, 1988, was used as a guide to the committee when finally making its decision. “The Board encourages the broadest possible use of this memorial land and nature trail for the continuing environmental education of the children and community, as long as such use will not detract in any way from the intent of this parcel to be a natural laboratory for the children and open space resource for the town. Construction of (anything) anywhere on this parcel, inconsistent with the character, history, and use of the land, is therefore prohibited.”

The committee decided to concur with Amy Konkle’s added input from the Hanover Conservation Council: “Let us continue to honor Judy Emory and her family by upholding this memorial land as primarily a place of environmental learning.” Plans for the fitness trail were set aside.

Twenty-five years after the partnership with the Hanover Conservation Council began, in 2001, the most recent guide was developed, a result of a collaboration of the Judith Wallace Emory Fund of the Hanover Conservation Council, The Bridgman Trust of the Bernice A. Ray School, and the Upper Valley Community Foundation’s Wellborn Ecology Fund.

The resulting 16-page guide acts as a reference to teachers using the area for teaching purposes as well as an invitation to townspeople to take advantage of and to use the nature trail for inspirational walks. The guide opens with a description of the three marked walks,(???) one, the summer trail, which is the longest and includes a visit to all the habitats. This trail is marked with yellow markers. The “blue” trail is shorter and can be found by following the blue markers through the forest and the meadow. The “red” trail, also a shorter trail, winds its way to the Colonial House alongside the vernal pool, and back. Whenever the traveler on any trail sees a sign with a fox on it, he should stop and read the section of the guidebook that has the same color and number.

Of course all visitors should be mindful of the “Woodland Ways”: –Be safe –Be observant –Be respectful of plants and animals.

There is so much to learn and see along the trail. Day to day, season to season, it grows and changes, sometimes in moments, and sometimes in voices only those who are patient and quiet can hear or recognize, but always something is happening. And oftentimes a walker will come upon a group of children “…on knees and elbows, holding a magnifying glass hoping not to miss anything.”