Children peered into telescopes, looking at the sun through filters.
“That’s a prominence,” one girl said, excited she had seen something she had learned in school.
Through the telescope’s filter, the sun appeared orange-red, with a mist-like substance drifting away from the edges and into space; it was gas leaving the surface of the sun in a tendril, called a prominence.
Earlier this month, the Rudolph Howell & Son Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center staged Howell Woodstock, with telescopes, snakes, bees, a bounce house, rock-climbing, fishing and fun memories for families. About 1,000 people attended.
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The point of Howell Woodstock is to raise awareness of the environmental learning center, which is owned and operated by Johnston Community College. Located off of Devil’s Racetrack Road, the 2,800 acres were a gift from the late Rudy Howell, the longtime owner of Smithfield’s Howell Theatre.
The college has turned the land along the Neuse River into camping grounds, walking trails and fishing ponds, and director Jordan Astoske hopes more people will take advantage of all that Howell Woods has to offer.
“All the activities we have here are to get people introduced to environmental education, outdoor recreation and environmental conservation,” Astoske said. “And we hope that by bringing people out here for an event like (Woodstock), they’ll become more aware of the programs that we offer.”
Rose Walker, 54, of Four Oaks often takes her family to Howell Woods for picnics, and Woodstock was a chance for them to do more. “This is a way for them to learn about their environment,” she said, adding that experiencing the environment is “one of the most precious gifts you can give a child.”
Robert Ryals, 9, of Benson said his favorite part of Woodstock was learning about the many uses of honey. An instructor had a hive on display and was handing out old honeycombs for children to touch.
Robert’s brother, Domanic, 8, said his favorite parts were “the rides and learning ... snakes and bees and learning how to fish.”
Kierana Tucker, 11, of Benson said she enjoyed spending time with her loved ones. “I like it because we get together with our family,” she said.
Jennifer Storey of Clayton brought her daughters, Megan, 9, and Alexa, 6, after seeing a flier about the event. Storey said her kids love the outdoors. “Because you can get fresh air,” Megan said.
Brian Reasor, a member of the Raleigh Astronomy Club, brought a telescope to the event. He likes showing the night sky to people. “It really helps open their minds,” he said. “(Astronomy) is a science. The universe is out there.”
Hailey Rollins, a third-grader at Princeton Elementary School, stuck her head under a black cloth to block out the sunlight as she looked into the telescope. “It’s really cool,” she said, “because I got to see flares and sunspots and prominences, and we learned about those in school.”