Woodstock School Principal Beth Clarke helps fifth grader Madeline Jewell with her florescent vest. Rose Lincoln

Woodstock School students and volunteers hiked from school to Lapham Ledge in the snow. Rose Lincoln

Fifth grader Ade Luetje catches snowflakes. Rose Lincoln

WOODSTOCK — As the snow falls on a recent Thursday morning, 16 Woodstock Elementary School fourth and fifth graders are hiking into the woods with their principal, a few teachers and several volunteers.

Some have backpacks and nearly everyone has an orange vest or hat. If they forgot their mittens, they take a pair from a box of donated ones in the office.

In the winter they’ll use snowshoes; the school has 50 pairs.

In a nine-minute  Oct. 25 special town meeting, Woodstock voters said yes to the purchase of the land the students are hiking on. The acreage abuts Buck’s Ledge and was purchased specifically for school access.

As they leave from school the children no longer need to walk along busy Rumford Avenue to get to the trail head off Echo Lane. Jane Chandler, and other Woodstock Conservation Commission members, forged a new trail that runs parallel to the street. Eventually when they cross Rumford Avenue, it will be on a crosswalk that is in the works, too.

In a pre-hike circle, Physical Education teacher Melissa Kilborn tells the children they will be building a compass with their partner when they reach the top of Lapham’s Ledge.


Woodstock School Principal Beth Clarke said they invite families on the hikes so they will be familiar and comfortable with the trails and  return with their children on their own. “I just want the outdoors to be a part of their life,” said Clarke.

Fifth grader Madison Osgood, who said she likes to see animals on hikes, came with her parents, Rickie and Sam Osgood.

After crossing Rumford Avenue, it is a short trek to the trail head where a sign points the direction to Lapham Ledge. As the trail turns into an old logging road, Chandler points out a beaver pond. A trail to the pond is coming, she says.

Fourth grader Macie Hartzell said the view at the end is what she likes best since she doesn’t enjoy walking.

At a bridge that crosses a brook, fourth grader Dom DiBenedetto is hesitant to cross. He had never crossed a bridge made of logs and it was uncomfortable, he said. The others cheer when he gingerly steps to the other side.

Fifth grader Madeline Jewell hiking beside Clarke is chatty, talking about hikes she does at her grandmother’s house in Greenwood.

Clarke says, “When you walk in the woods with kids, the kinds of conversations that happen, you can’t replicate that inside of a schoolhouse. They are genuine, really informal, they share things that make them happy, and you learn about their life.”

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