The Mayfly Project takes flight at Spruce Knob Mountain Center!
This fall, Experience Learning partnered up with The Mayfly Project to provide youth in foster care the opportunity to explore some of the wild spaces and freshwater fisheries our mountain state has to offer. With our mission of integrating meaningful outdoor experiences into the lives of others, it was a perfect fit to align with The Mayfly Project for this special adventure.
The Mayfly Project is a national organization that uses fly fishing as a catalyst to mentor and support children in foster care. Their mission is to introduce children to their local water ecosystems, with a hope that connecting them to a rewarding hobby will provide an opportunity for foster children to have fun, build confidence, and develop a meaningful connection with the outdoors. At the completion of their project outings, each participant will receive all the gear they need to take with them to continue with fly fishing and encouraging time spent outdoors.
The weekend was designed for the kids to get away and disconnect from the trials of daily life. Without service in this mountainous region, they were unable to use their phones in any of the areas we visited, creating an experience that embraced being off the grid. As everyone arrived, kicking off the festivities with exploring the campus yurts, a campfire dinner, nature journaling, and stargazing was the perfect introduction to life up at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center.
For their big fishing experience, The Mayfly Project mentors and Experience Learning staff traveled down the mountain, meeting at the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center to begin the project’s fishing outing. Mentors helped kids rig up their rods and pick out the bugs they wanted to throw that day. They then took their children out to read the water, looking for deep pools where eager trout would be hiding and casting into those areas to produce a bite. It was a warm and sunny September day, perfect for spending time reflecting on the water and learning this new craft. After a morning full of fishing and a few hook sets later, we then shifted into a shocking presentation given by the WVDNR. We were able to learn how biologists collect aquatic species and see some up close and personal. Everything from trout, to various species of darters, and even a freshwater eel was shocked up from the holes of the North Fork. It was a day for the books!
To wrap up our big adventure, we completed our day atop Spruce Knob summit to catch the sunset, painting the mountains with bright yellows and red. This was the first time the kids had been to the highest point in the state, and most had never adventured to a place with such incredible scenery and a bird’s eye view of our mountain state. Hearing kids say, “this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been,” was so magical, and their excitement is precisely what sparks the love for nature in our hearts. And as we stood peering over what felt like the top of the world, the sun continued to set on the day and the bright colors that once painted the sky began to fade. In that moment, one of our Mayfly kids approached me and said, “this has been the best day of my life,” and the realization of what took place that special weekend became so clear. Though our time together was short, it was packed with beautiful spaces, new experiences, mentorship, learning, support, and self-discovery.
It was a wonderful and impactful weekend for everyone involved, and the Spruce Knob Mountain Center was a perfect place to call home. We are excited to be working with The Mayfly Project and look forward to seeing the many children in foster care who can benefit from outdoor experiences like these in the future.
If you know a child currently in foster care or an organization that would benefit from The Mayfly Project, or you would like to join our project as a mentor, please visit the project page to learn more: https://themayflyproject.com/morgantown-west-virginia-project/
Contact Becca Myers, TMP Lead Mentor and Experience Learning Community-based Learning Coordinator, for further inquiry: firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about support that can be provided to children in the foster system, KVC West Virginia has initiatives they are doing to support this population, giving kids experiences of a lifetime, visit: https://westvirginia.kvc.org/