The Transylvania Times -

Mountain Sun's Otter Class Greets Their Neighbors


March 16, 2017

An Otter enjoying his cupcake provided by Blue Ridge Bakery. (Courtesy photos)

At Mountain Sun Community School, creating a positive community is an integral part of the education.

On March 2, the primary (ages 3-6) class called The Otters went on a morning field trip to walk around downtown Brevard to visit the greater community.

Teachers Annie Burgess, lead teacher, and Morgan Sprinkle, assistant teacher, wanted to introduce their students to their neighbors.

"Our school believes in fostering a sense of belonging in our students. We know that students who feel valued, included, and appreciated feel better, and students who feel better are happier, more fulfilled, and open to collaboration and conflict resolution," Sprinkle said.

The crew of 20 enthusiastic Otters trotted through the streets of downtown Brevard, exploring the community of talented, welcoming people. At MSCS, students practice "grace and courtesy" in their classroom, and this was the Otters' opportunity to use those skills in the real world.

The first stop was the Blue Ridge Bakery where they kicked off the tour of the neighborhood with a little music from John and Bill of the Blue Ridge Bakery Boys, who played "Won't you be my neighbor?" while the Otters sang along.

The bakery's owner, Katina Hansen, invited all of the students to decorate their own cupcakes. There was much talk and busy hands as each child got down to the serious task of creating the most beautiful, sprinkled, frosted-to-perfection creation that they could call their own.

"The other bakery guests remarked on their concentration!" Sprinkle said.

The Otters walked past a barber shop where Annie Burgess remarked, "Let's see what they're up to!"

One quick introduction later, the crew of curious Otters went into the barber shop where they were invited to sit on benches, ask questions, and dream about one day getting a haircut from Ricky or Randy.

"This wasn't planned. We didn't have any intention of bombarding these two kind-hearted men with a gaggle of kiddos. But it speaks to the kindness and generosity of our neighbors that we were welcomed in and invited to sit awhile. Annie and I live with this kind of impromptu agenda (you have to, when your students throw you curveballs better than Clayton Kershaw), but the grace shown by our hosts didn't go unnoticed," Sprinkle said.

The next stop was the White Squirrel Radio station, where the host, Don, told the Otters about the unique radio station, owned by local business people.

The students filed into a back room with an enormous switchboard, computers and lots of fancy-looking buttons.

The Otters recorded a quick message about MSCS (did you catch their chorus of "We're from Mountain Sun Community School!"?) and all the children promised Don they'll wave at him through the glass whenever they see him.

From the radio station the Otters walked past Ace Hardware where they made another unplanned visit to make friends with Chris, an employee. He came out to speak to the Otters about his favorite tool, the chainsaw, and how the hardware store is a great place to go for assistance with special projects.

Their final stop was the fire station. There, Capt. Adam showed the class firemen gear and how it protects them so that they can help during an emergency.

"I appreciated how he made the children comfortable, despite the mask over his face and the sound of the oxygen tank. He explained that sometimes children hide during a fire because the firefighters can look scary, but having a chance to see him without his mask first and ask questions helped our students feel more comfortable," Sprinkle said.

The Otters were met, without exception, by generous people who invited them in, fed them, listened, and answered the Otters' questions. These neighbors shared their energy and expertise, encouraged the students and made them feel like part of their community.

An Otter explores the parts of the fire truck.

"We felt like we belonged. What lucky Otters we are, to have such welcoming neighbors," said Sprinkle.

"Due to this incredible experience we were inspired to meet even more neighbors," said Burgess. "We have trips planned to The Bike Farm and Gwynn Valley next month! And my neighbor, Gwynn Britt, who is the florist at Ingles, will be coming in early April to give a lesson on floral arrangements."

The Otters are excited to become even more integrated to their surrounding communities.

(Mountain Sun Community School is an independent, nonprofit school serving Preschool through Middle School and utilizes Montessori and other methods to provide a unique, inspired education for each child. Mountain Sun


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