Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Secret Forest of Charles Hughes

I made this book about my father last year, but never wrote about it in this blog. Some of you may already know the book or own it, but for anyone else stumbling upon this, these are the actual page spreads. You can view The Sceret Forest of Charles Hughes as a PDF file here.

This is cover and introduction page.
On a trip back to Virginia, my father, Charles Hughes, took me to see his classroom at the Maritime School in Norfolk, Virginia. My father has spent a majority of his life teaching children and young adults of all ages.

His classroom is very unique and you likely will never see another room like it. There are scientific treasures everywhere that you look. Most of them collected and preserved by Charles himself.

You could easily be looking at exhibits from a science museum with strange collected creatures and live animals in aquariums.

Behind the school, the teaching continues in a unique outdoor classroom under a single pine tree. A circular bench was constructed where whole classes of children could be taken and taught about nature.

Beyond this point, behind an unassuming chain link fence is a truly magical place... the place that I call the "Secret Forest of Charles Hughes".

The forest is rare to the east coast of Virginia because it contains extremely old and large live oaks that could be hundreds of years old.

Many of these forests were destroyed for fuel or building materials so the fact that this one survived in such a populated area is surprising.

Though the forest is protected now by a fence, it was not always so. The community came together to run off vagrants and remove thousands of pounds of trash from the forest. Some of the damage can still be seen like these huge fire pits.

My father and others realized the important ecosystem that was a few hundred yards from the school and the fantastic opportunity to save a unique place for future generations.

I took photos in the classrooms and forest so I could make a book about it as a present of appreciation for my father. I know that he liked it and so did many of his friends. The library of his school asked for a copy so the kids would know more about it.

This project is the closest one to my heart and tries to capture the dedication of a man who has taught over 50 years, and a genius who has inspired  generations of students into knowing that not all knowledge comes from a book.... some of it has to be discovered for yourself.