Bird's Eye View Blog Community Corner Research Roundup University Unwrapped

Mason Librarian / Nature Photographer Captures Stunning Images Along The EDGE’s Piedmont Trail

University Unwrapped – Photographer Ansel Adams is quoted as saying, “Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.” That statement certainly captures the feeling around The EDGE office when we saw these amazing photographs taken along our Piedmont Trail by Victoria Martin, Life Sciences Librarian at George Mason University and accomplished nature photographer. Please take a few minutes to browse through these gorgeous images.  To learn more about Victoria Martin, visit her page on Fine Art America.  Thank you, Victoria, for sharing your work with us!

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Blog Dan the Bearded Builder

Challenge Course Update: Fall 2012

Facilities Update by Dan the Bearded Builder – It’s been a little while since we posted a facilities update.  Too long!  I guess that’s the downside of working outside on the course with limited wi-fi access and my hands filled with tools rather than a computer (well, not really much of a downside for me).  In any case, I wanted to alert folks to some of the recent happenings outside on the course. 

First, we now have a Trust Fall Platform.  Not only does this activity help build trust, but it helps teach the importance of both giving and receiving support, building self-confidence, and conquering challenge.  This activity will be used selectively in advanced teambuilding programs. 


We also built a 360° Whale Watch.  Real boats don’t just rock forward and backwards, they bounce and roll in all different directions.  So, we want to make an advanced Whale Watch activity that is as realistic as possible.  The only problem is, how do you replicate the feeling of rocking on the waves while standing on dry land?  And, more importantly, how do you make it safe, long-lasting, beautiful to look at, and not too expensive to build or maintain?  After much experimentation, I finally came up with a solution – a bowling ball in the ground that serves as a fulcrum, with a custom built platform resting on it.  This is another great new challenge for our advanced teambuilding programs.

Finally, I wanted to mention something that’s extremely important to me that no one will even notice or see – custom-made sheaves.  You may ask – What are sheaves? What do they do?  What do they have to do with experiential learning?  They are part of the pulley system we use for the Total Team Challenge.  When I observed that the existing pulleys were causing wear on the cables, I knew I had to come up with a way to reduce maintenance and improve the longevity of this incredibly special teambuilding tool.  Nothing but the best would do.  So, I turned to to have custom-designed sheaves made.  This Connecticut-based company makes equipment for Cirque du Soliel, The U.S. Navy, Boeing, and now The EDGE.  These “Made in the USA” products will help us ensure our equipment continues to rise far above the industry standard.

Now, back to that new bench I was building . . .

Research Roundup University Unwrapped

Mason Student Conducts Environmental Research Study at The EDGE

It’s amazing to see who and what are attracted to our tranquil setting nestled among 10-acres of forest, wetland, and meadows.  We expect to see our Challenge Course bustling with teams engaged in experiential learning.  The Piedmont Trail attracts many regular walkers and joggers.  But, this year, we attracted a student conducting an original research project on wetlands.  George Mason University Senior, Chris Fleshren, spent five weeks on our site with his camera, GPS, sketch pad, magnifying glass, rain-boots, and DEET; researching wetland characteristics and defining their borders.  His preliminary write-up and photos of his findings follow:

Attention The EDGE and Nature Fans . . .
This summer I am researching the natural wetlands on the grounds of The EDGE Challenge Course in Prince William County.  My name is Chris Fleshren, and I’m a senior at George Mason University.  My major combines Global and Environmental Change with Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
Wetland ecosystems are vital components of our environment; they are complex, and exceedingly vulnerable to human developmental impact.  Official definitions of wetlands vary somewhat, but most agree that the soil in “wetlands” must be saturated for long-enough during the growing season to support the growth of plant communities specifically adapted to soils with little or no oxygen.  In turn, these plants attract distinctive species of birds, amphibians and animals resulting in unique ecosystems.
The purpose of my research is to determine the borders of the wetlands, and prepare an assessment of their dominant characteristics.  I will be entering and analyzing my findings in the GIS software program called ArcMAP.  Maps I create of the wetland and its features will then be assembled with text and tables in a poster project for course credit.
Using a global positioning unit I have been recording the location and abundance of resident tree and plant species.  I have also tracked the creeks flowing into and out-of the wetland.  I still have some soil survey/sampling to perform; and I will be moving some camera traps around in an effort to record some of the wildlife accessing the area. 
During this project I have encountered many unique examples of this area’s wildlife.  In addition to the many turtles, frogs and snakes I discovered in the area, I found the bones of several mammals and a turkey. Other birds—still very much alive—reminded me that I was a guest in their environment. My wandering within about 4 feet of a roosting Ruffed Grouse caused it to explode into flight—nearly giving me a heart attack.  I almost died again when a hawk strafed and screamed at me from what could not have been more than 6 feet above my head.
This project has been a very memorable experience.  I won’t soon forget the many hours I spent and miles I walked in rubber hip-waders in this summer’s 90+ degree temperatures…  or the ticks and mosquitoes that ignored the DEET slathered all over me…  or the gallons of Gatorade I chugged.
See pictures for a taste of the EDGE Course’s local wildlife and a recent map of the wetland borders resulting from my study.   
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Tread softly,
Research Roundup School Session

44th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll shows a nation divided over public education issues

We don’t normally get involved in political issues, here at The EDGE, but, we did think some of our educator friends might find this new study on current national opinion on public education interesting.

Community Corner Research Roundup University Unwrapped

Mason Nation Representation in the World of Sports

Like everyone around the world watching the Olympics, much of our attention has been focused on the sports world lately.  Perhaps nowhere is organizational effectiveness and teamwork more obviously on display and directly measurable, than in sports.  With that in mind, we wanted to pass along some recent stories that highlight how the Mason Nation is contributing to the world of sports.