HomeLand Use in Western North Carolina Lesson Plans from the Southern Appalachian ArchivesBailey Mountain: Past and Present

Bailey Mountain: Past and Present

Purpose: Students will recognize Bailey Mountain both as an important natural area and a symbol of the town and university. They will reconstruct and articulate how land-use around the mountain (and therefore around Mars Hill University’s campus) has changed in the last 150 years.

Time: 50-80 minutes (one full class or lab period)

Terms: Walnut Mountains, Bailey Mountain, land-use change, ecosystem, habitat, population, community, headwater streams

Objective(s): Students will explore the natural history of Mars Hill University through the lens of its most iconic natural area. They will design and present a timeline of the history (ecological and anthropogenic) of Bailey Mountain from 1856 to the present   

Background: Bailey Mountain is the tallest peak of the Walnut Mountain Range, and is the most recognizable peak in the Mars Hill area. Bailey has also been a symbol of Mars Hill College since its founding in 1856 and several campus buildings share its name as well as the flagship dance group, the Bailey Mountain Cloggers. Because it is the most memorable and visible peak in the Mars Hill area, it has been under pressure from human development. An effort to protect public access to the mountain in the late 1990’s resulted in the creation of Bailey Mountain Park.

Preparation: Arrange tables in long rows so groups can unroll their timeline paper, place a photo packet on each long table and scramble the order of photos, open the “Bailey” powerpoint provided

Resource List: laminated Bailey Mountain photos (5 packets of 10), powerpoint “Bailey Timeline Photos” (photos in order as an answer key), roll paper*, markers*, scissors* (*Optional)


1.Break students into groups of four (some may have three).

2.Task them with putting the photos in chronological order, based on what they know about land use patterns. They will be timed (10 minutes max.) If they are a competitive, offer a prize to the group that finishes first, as well as a prize for the most accurate.

  1. Ask one member of the group to take notes about the group decision-making process: What clues did they look for in each photo? How did they come to a final consensus?
  2. Have a group spokesperson share their process notes. Did anyone look at Bailey Mountain for clues?
  3. What do they notice about the mountain over time? (Hopefully that vegetation is returning.) Talk briefly about how land-use patterns have gradually seen an increase in forest cover after the extraction boom around the turn of the 20th century.
  4. Invite students to change their chronology.
  5. After time is called, begin playing the powerpoint and have students check themselves and note the correct order. Give prizes if you choose.
  6. Optional lecture is provided with supplemental photos and descriptions of the role of Bailey in Mars Hill history

Tips from having tried this with students:

Lesson Materials: