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BOOST XL Visits Warren Wilson College

Photo collage featuring BOOST XL Junior Coaches Sarah Toloman and Felipe Chung
Felipe Betancur, Sarah Tolman

This post was contributed by BOOST XL Junior Coaches Sarah Tolman and Felipe Betancur.

One of the highlights of the year here in BOOST has always been the field trips. The trip to Warren Wilson College by our XL cohort (seventh grade) was no exception. Traveling from Durham to Asheville on a large, bio-fueled bus on Friday – with a stop in Statesville for dinner –  we made good time, enjoying many vistas overlooking the mountains and cities of Western North Carolina.

Photo of BOOST XL Scholars on Warren Wilson college farm tour
Students follow Warren Wilson Professors on farm tour

Come morning, we headed out to Warren Wilson College – a small liberal arts school with over a thousand acres of forest and farm, nestled within its own valley, with a stunning view of the surrounding mountains. With the biology teacher, Mark Brennan, as a guide, we toured the farm and college. The scholars really enjoyed meeting the two draft horses and seeing the many piglets and lambs. After the tour, we ate lunch in the school cafeteria- where much of the food that was eaten was raised right on the farm!

Afterwards, the scholars conducted sampling of a stream running through the center of campus – a stream which, according to Professor Brennan, is due for reconstruction in the very near future. After collecting the water samples from the stream – a process in which everyone managed to somehow stay dry – the scholars prepared the samples for testing. The water is tested for fecal bacteria, which would indicate pollution from the farm fields, ammonia – toxic to aquatic life in even small amounts – and sediment, which has the potential to clog gills and snuff out sunlight. After setting these up, Petri dishes to incubate and sediment samples to dry, we traveled to downtown Asheville to end our day, touring it and eating dinner. We discovered quaint novelty shops and minuscule museums, but the best part of the tour by far was the end destination: the Jerusalem Garden Cafe, which serves authentic Mediterranean cuisine.

The next morning, we packed our bags with reluctance and then made a final trip back to Warren Wilson, where the scholars analyzed our results from the preceding day. They found that bacteria, ammonia, and sediment levels were higher after and within the sector of the stream in contact with the farm, indicating a problem ready to be addressed by the reconstruction crew that reworks the creek’s path and structure. These results, while unfortunate, are important; they will be used in an upcoming scientific paper on the stream after the creek is finished and more testing is done.

We said our goodbyes and left, journeying home after a final stop in Asheville to eat lunch. The trip was by far one of the best parts of the year so far. The weather was finer than we ever hoped for, the views amazing, and the spring flowers just starting to bloom. The scholars enjoyed it too, with many reluctant to go home.

A Brief History of Warren Wilson

Warren Wilson is currently a work college, where every student has a position in the college- whether janitorial or managing forests. It is a popular, but small, liberal arts college, and has been so for as long as many remember. But its roots go deeper than that- it was initially founded in 1893, when it was instead a secondary school for boys, focused on providing practical work skills as well as academic education. It only grew from there- shifting to a college, joining with a local women’s school, and developing a vocational program that rivals the best in the country. Now, it holds a much more environmental focus. The site has consistently received the best management available for the times, and the students actively work in designing for the present and future.

Highlights of the Trip:

The Warren Wilson trip had many amazing highlights that made it eventful. The overall ambiance when we had arrived in Asheville was noticeably different. I have to say that the best part of the trip was when the scholars collected samples from different sources of water and then later analyzed the information the way true scientists do! Another great highlight of the trip was when we had traveled downtown in Asheville and had a wonderful experience with the new exposure. Seeing the piglets, draft horses and the entire farm had a great impact on the energy at the farm. Since Warren Wilson’s farm is self-sustaining, we got to experience the daily jobs the students had to accomplish. The tour around this campus was really eye-catching and I would recommend visiting once more!

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