University School of Nashville's Young Naturalist Program took the Class of 2030 kayaking on the Duck River for a day of adventure and curiosity.
By Lauren Hagan, Lower School Naturalist Teacher
The Rock Pocketbook, the Tennessee Pig Toe, the Monkey Face — can you guess what these colorful names describe?
If you guessed freshwater mussels, you are correct. All week our brave and curious fourth grade naturalists have traveled to the scenic Duck River to paddle for 5.5 miles and to explore the 65 species of mussels that call the river home.
The Duck is a unique river and has been celebrated as one of the most biologically rich and diverse rivers in North America. Jan Seufert and Dawn Nelson of Higher Pursuits Outfitters in Columbia, Tennessee led this incredible adventure. Having operated on the river since 1998, these remarkable leaders share a wealth of fascinating information about the Duck and have a true gift for teaching our young paddlers the ins and outs of kayaking.
Drawing on the experience gained from our fall kayaking trip to Couchville Lake in Long Hunter State Park, our intrepid fourth graders took on the class one rapids of the Duck with a vengeance. We paddled through eddies, around downed trees, and through narrow passages. We stopped at the aptly named Mussel Shoals for a lunch break and looked for the various mussels that each student researched beforehand. Students discovered many live mussels and numerous mussel shells, observing each with curiosity and awe. Many of the mollusk shells found had a pearly iridescence which is quite exquisite.
After the mussel exploration, students had the opportunity to float feet first down the river. With squeals of delight, they ran back again and again to take another turn drifting down the chilly current.
By the time we reached Howard’s Bridge, our arms were tired and sore, but we were buoyed by the sense of accomplishment and a job well done. Teachers were proud to witness the sense of community as students worked together, encouraged each other, and let out a resounding cheer when our last paddler glided safely onto the ramp.