Classmates Skyla Delerme, Syvanah Bennett and David Steinhoff couldn’t stop chattering as they hopped out of the Cessna four-seater. The Evergreen Community Charter School eighth-graders met their science teacher, Stuart Miles, on the tarmac.
“There was so much stuff I never knew was there,” Steinhoff gushed.
“Tons of big houses,” Bennett added. And Delerme chimed in: “The Biltmore Estate gardens looked really small.”
The students got a view from 1,200 feet in the air courtesy of SouthWings, a nonprofit conservation organization that uses such flights and their spectacular aerial views to educate people about conservation. Hume Davenport, the founder of SouthWings, piloted the students.
The students won the flight after being judged the best team in a school land-use-planning project. Miles created the project as part of the study of the southern Appalachian Mountains and the area’s watersheds. The land-use project marked the final aspect of study, with teams of three students given various parcels of land to examine.
“This group did the Biltmore Estate,” Miles explained. “They did interviewing, a map and timeline of preservation, and a PowerPoint presentation.” The team of Delerme, Bennett and Steinhoff beat out about 15 other teams. The students said that a personal interview with Bill Alexander, Biltmore’s landscape curator (who offered historical background), and a brochure they created probably put them over the top.
Miles called SouthWings and asked if the organization would help judge the competition and offer a reward. Davenport agreed to do so, since the students’ work fits in with his environmental-education mission. He established SouthWings in 1996 to focus on 11 states in the Southeast, from the West Virginia mountains to northern Florida and west to southern Louisiana.
As the students soaked up their experience, Miles said he was proud of their work. “We focus on environmental education and service learning. I feel this project incorporated both. Evergreen will have the next generation of environmental leaders, and it’s important to understand all the parts that go into decision-making regarding land use.”
Visit www.mountainx.com/gallery to see a photo gallery of the students’ flight.