In fourth grade, the Waldorf school curriculum calls for an orientation of the child in time and space. The topics of local history and geography are ideally suited for this goal. Our hike introduced the class to these topics physically by walking through the landscape and retracing some of the historical tracks left behind by glaciers and people who lived here before us.
It was a beautiful, sunny October morning, with fog rising from the Arlington Great Meadows and dew sparkling on tall reeds, Jerusalem Artichokes, and Stag horn sumac leaves, when we set out to hike from the Waldorf School to Whipple Hill with four parent chaperones.
Whipple Hill is the highest point in Lexington and rises to 375’ of elevation. The class walked through Gnome Valley and past Boomerang Hill and discovered that these magical places are actual glacial knolls, left behind by the Laurentide Glacier some 15,000 years ago.
Students heard about the history of Arlington Great Meadows, which in the past was a dairy farm, a lake that provided drinking water for Arlington, and now conservation land that provides habitat for migratory birds and other animals.
The children hiked along the carriage paths left behind by farmers and peat cutters and marveled at the huge, albeit currently dry, vernal pond near Lexington Christian Academy. While walking along the paths the children noticed not only some very old trees (that must have been already in existence when the area had been a farm), but also thrown rock walls, and steep and craggy rocky walls on both sides of our path.
The summit of Whipple Hill is mostly bare, solid rock. The students noticed that this dark rocky surface had many scrapes (striations) that all went into one direction. After checking with a compass, we confirmed that the direction of these gouges ran north to south and that we were sitting on and looking at glacial scratches, created when the Laurentide glacier moved over this very old igneous, volcanic bedrock called gabbro thousands of years ago. We also discovered a pink granite bolder that had been left behind by that same glacier. This rock is a so-called erratic, a rock that must have come from somewhere else, because there is no pink granite in this area.
The view was gorgeous and the warm stones invited us to linger, but we had to walk back home and merrily finished our 5-mile round trip into history and geography in time to be back in school for orchestra class.
Written by Jeanette Voss, Fourth Grade Class Teacher at the Waldorf School of Lexington