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We're All Connected

We’re all familiar with the world wide web, but what about the wood wide web? Turns out that trees exchange information and nutrients throughout a forest via vast fungal webs. Is not such interconnection also true for Boxerwood?

We too are locally rooted yet also thrive as a nexus of exchange. In anycase, all of us at Boxerwood were charmed this fall when two colleagues created a new outdoor program that embodied this concept of interconnectivity with help from almost 200 6th graders yogis.

The opportunity arose as part of a day-long program at Douthat State Park, as organized by physical education teachers at Maury River Middle School who aspire to introduce all Rockbridge County kids to outdoor recreation. In addition to fishing, orienteering, and hiking, the kids had a try at Earth Yoga. Led by Boxerwood educators and certified yoga instructors Karen Stanley and Caroline Coons, students created many poses mirroring ecological concepts.

Working in teams, the students first created archways to share weight, illustrating the keystone concept. Along the way, they also learned that the white oak tree under which they practiced can be host to 557 species of caterpillars – thus itself a keystone species of wild splendor and value.

The youths then played a game that illustrated that overarching concept of interconnectivity. As Caroline Coons explains it, kids standing inside the hoola hoops were individual trees. Straps attached to each hoop represented the mycelium (fungus) that connect tree roots across a forest and thus function as a wood wide web. Kids held onto the straps as the mycelium, the fungal network.

After building the network, the youths played a game to demonstrate how trees communicate using their mycelium systems, using balls to represented tree signals. When one tree signaled distress because aphids were eating its leaves, the kids rolled balls along the mycelium straps to share the distress signal to other trees. This pattern, observed by science, has enabled other trees to produce bitter tasting leaves, thus protecting themselves from predation.

In essence our day in the park was nature yoga play meets ecology with cooperative learning and laughter from start to finish. Thank you, Caroline and Karen!


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