Goodbye to the Box, our trusty Honda Element. From hauling plants to road trips with red wolves and owls, the Box has been our outreach vehicle for a number of years and served us well. Unfortunately, after a series of events it has been totaled and can no longer safely transport our wildlife, plants, and staff around Chattanooga. This is a huge problem for us, as many relied on it -- from getting animals to the vet to transporting educators and materials to schools. 

As for now, we have leased a stow-and-go van that has been a great replacement so far and has in many ways been even better for the tasks at hand than the Box ever was. But this is still just a short-term solution, and for the sake of continuing our mission we have determined that it needs to be made permanent.

So as Giving Tuesday is fast approaching, we have shifted our focus from general fundraising to one point: buying a van. For those of you unfamiliar with Giving Tuesday, it is on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, to kick off the charitable season and to celebrate philanthropy and giving back. We are lucky enough to live in a city so wonderful and philanthropic that it ranked in the top 15 last year for most generous cities in America! And because Chattanooga is so generous, it has its own version of Giving Tuesday: CHAgives. CHAgives is the local version of Giving Tuesday, focused on making the 27th as big and beneficial as it can possibly be. We are one of many organizations involved, and it all culminates in a pop-up at Miller Plaza (not to mention a breakfast we will be hosting beforehand). 

At Reflection Riding we believe it is important to give where you live. Therefore, we are setting our goal at $20,000 for Giving Tuesday (see our giving "thermometer" pictured on the left), in order to continue benefiting and participating in the Chattanooga community that we love so much. By helping us raise money for this van you are not only showing how much you care for Reflection Riding itself, but also for wildlife education, native plant restoration, animal conservation, and making sure a green space in the heart of Chattanooga can thrive. 

We offer our thanks for all the continued support, and would also like to extend an invitation to our #CHAgives breakfast before the festivities at Miller Plaza.

About the Author:

Bess Turner graduated from Tulane University in 2018 with a BA in English, Anthropology, and Environmental Studies, where she also worked for the Tulane Hullabaloo and the Undergraduate Student Government Sustainability Committee. When she's not writing for Reflection Riding you can find her on the mat, hiking, reading, and searching for the best veggie burger in Chattanooga. 

You can follow Bess on Instagram @bess_turner

Posted by Bess Turner  | Category: Giving

“If you go out and look around, really look carefully, you'll find that the Chattanooga area is home to a great diversity of native plant species,” said John Evans, director of horticulture here at Reflection Riding. Due to the climate history and the geography of the area, this unique city contains habitat types spanning from upland forests to grasslands, wetlands to mountain coves. “This diversity not only gives us plenty to explore, but also plenty to choose from when selecting native plants for our gardens and landscapes,” Evans said.

The 317 acres of Reflection Riding contains its own diverse array of plants, all under the care of Evans. As manager of the native plant nursery, Evans is responsible for producing enough native plants to make a difference on the property as the horticulture team restores habitats and maintains established gardens.

“Growing native plants from seeds is a complex process that involves planning several seasons in advance,” Evans said. “It requires a considerable amount of labor too, and we are fortunate to have a number of dedicated volunteers excited to participate in the effort.”
 
Native species in Chattanooga are facing a number of threats, especially from invasive exotic plants. Introduced either unintentionally as passengers in international trade or deliberately for a variety of reasons, most exotic species do not become invasive. But some of these species begin to have negative impacts on the environment, and outcompete native species (Are you interested in helping Reflection Riding manage invasive exotic species? Check our Eventbrite for more information about privet pulling sessions, to which we dedicate each Tuesday evening).

The largest threat to Chattanooga’s native species though, is what native species all over the world are facing now: habitat loss. 

“The single greatest threat to biodiversity is habitat loss. As human population grows at an exponential rate, we have no choice but to occupy more space, and we seem to do it in the least efficient ways possible…” Evans said. “Sure, after we bulldoze the fields and forests, put in the roads, and build the houses, we often put a lot into landscaping so we can surround ourselves with what we perceive as a natural-feeling environment. But a monoculture lawn is not a meadow, and planting the same few exotic ornamental tree species throughout the neighborhood does not re-create a forest. The plant diversity that was once there is now gone.”

One way that Evans recommends being conscious of Chattanooga’s native species and supportive of biodiversity is by using natives in the home landscape. This not only supports plant diversity, but also native wildlife like insect pollinators, birds, and small mammals. Evans’ work supports this as well, by producing the native species for the bi-annual Reflection Riding plant sale that funds the nursery’s operation.

“We see it as our role to provide as many native plant species as possible to the local community. Currently we grow about 200 native plant species, and we are pushing the number further all the time,” Evans said. “Twice a year, in the spring and in the fall, we have a major native plant sale where the public can come and select from our collection. These native plant sales have been a Chattanooga tradition for over 30 years and serve as gathering points for native plant enthusiasts throughout the region.”

Reflection Riding is currently looking to fill a staff horticulturist position. Ideally this is a person with horticultural skills and a familiarity with native plants, who is enthusiastic about working in outdoor conditions. The job will include such tasks as seed collection and processing, propagation, care of plants in the nursery, general gardening activities, invasive plant management, habitat restoration and management, and housekeeping around the nursery. If you are interested in being a part of the Reflection Riding team, send a personal statement and resume to [email protected].

About the Author

Bess Turner graduated from Tulane University in 2018 with a BA in English, Anthropology, and Environmental Studies, where she also worked for the Tulane Hullabaloo and the Undergraduate Student Government Sustainability Committee. When she's not writing for Reflection Riding you can find her on the mat, hiking, reading, and searching for the best veggie burger in Chattanooga. 

You can follow Bess on Instagram @bess_turner

Posted by Bess Turner

Days spent outside drawing and playing, making art and watching birds, sitting around a fire telling stories and singing songs -- these may seem like exclusively summer activities for many kids, or even worse, a thing of the past. Fortunately for the children who attend Wauhatchie School, it is neither. The program, which follows the Forest Kindergarten ethos, will be opening a second site at Reflection Riding next semester, as well as expanding the age range.


Jean Lomino, former Education Director and longtime Executive Director for the Chattanooga Nature Center and Reflection Riding, established the program in 2015 with Diana Meadows, director of the Learning Center at Lookout Lake.


“We started on her family property, and that’s just about four miles down the road from [Reflection Riding],” Lomino said. “My grandson was in her care when we started talking about it, and so he was actually in my very first forest kindergarten class in 2015.”


The inaugural class of 2015 spent almost every morning outdoors, exploring their surroundings and learning to ask questions rather than depend on directions from a teacher. Forest school relies on child-led inquiry and place-based education as a curriculum, meaning that kids get to learn about what interests them as well as foster a love of learning that could be squelched in a more structured environment.


“They go and they do what they want to do, and basically they end up making their own little teams,” Lomino said. “They all have their own little projects or games that they’re involved in, and the teachers are there just to watch over them basically -- protect them, supervise them.”


Art is also heavily integrated into the curriculum, whether it be journaling, drawing, or with art supplies brought out by teachers. Lomino noted that oftentimes children don’t even need extra supplies, and will create with what they find in the woods.


The morning of forest kindergarten is spent completely outside, and children who stay for the whole day of the kindergarten program gain the skills needed for first grade preparedness as well, which may involve indoor activities in the onsite classroom. At the Reflection Riding campus children of all ages will be learning more direct skills. While focusing on a different concept each week, they will also participate in long-term projects like tracking migration patterns over the course of the school year. They will learn bushcraft skills, how to work with tools like knives and axes, survival skills, and more.

“It’s that hands on experience that makes the difference,” said Megan Chaney, assistant director of Wauhatchie School. “So when you’re learning those academic subjects like reading and writing and arithmetic you’re applying; you’re doing those hands on experiences that make the connections better. They help push it into your long term memory.”

Lomino has seen first-hand how this kind of learning environment can be beneficial to children; her grandson will be returning for his fourth year of forest kindergarten this school year.

“My middle grandson, who will be turning six next month, he was pretty much my inspiration for forest kindergarten… He’s developed into a little naturalist, I can tell you that for sure. He is very comfortable outside, he knows the names of so many creatures and trees and plants.”

Equal to their objective of teaching children outside is Wauhatchie School’s teacher training program. Since opening their doors in 2015 Lomino has trained 70 teachers from all over the country and the world. She recently completed research with educators in Guangzhou, China, with a written study forthcoming. Whether kindergarten age or retiree age, though, there are plenty of lessons that can be gleaned from the Forest School ethos: to spend as much time in the outdoors as possible, to retain a childlike love of learning, and to never stop exploring.

For more information about the program click here for Forest School principles and moments and here for the Wauhatchie School and a video! 

Spots are still open for this fall. To fill out an application for your child to attend Forest Kindergarten or Forest School, visit the Wauhatchie School website.


About The Author

Bess Turner graduated from Tulane University in 2018 with a BA in English, Anthropology, and Environmental Studies, where she also worked for the Tulane Hullabaloo and the Undergraduate Student Government Sustainability Committee. When she's not writing for Reflection Riding you can find her on the mat, hiking, reading, and searching for the best veggie burger in Chattanooga. You can follow Bess on Instagram @bess_turner

Posted by Bess Turner  | Category: Education

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