When your classroom’s in the clouds, higher learning takes on a different meaning.

This summer, Grandfather Mountain presents “Grandfather Presents,” a lecture series focused on nature, conservation and exploration.

“This series provides an excellent avenue for people who love nature to meet those who have excelled at researching, representing or exploring it,” said Amy Renfranz, education specialist for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Linville, N.C.-based nature preserve and attraction. “It’s a fun way to learn more and be inspired.”

And this year’s lecturers promise just that, with presentations from National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Jennifer Pharr Davis, wildlife artist Ryan Kirby, public television personality Tom Earnhardt and New York Times bestselling author Leigh Ann Henion.

“We chose four people from different areas of nature conservation: the recreationist, the artist, the television host and the author,” Renfranz said. “These people have all found ways to interpret their love of the outdoors to the public in very successful ways. The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation’s mission is about inspiring conservation. These four speakers have made that their lives’ mission!”

The program schedule is as follows:


Grandfather Presents: Jennifer Pharr Davis

Thursday, June 22, 6 to 8 p.m.

Jennifer Pharr Davis is a hiker, author, speaker and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, who has covered more than 12,000 miles of long-distance trails on six different continents. In 2011, she covered the 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes, maintaining a remarkable average of 47 miles per day. By doing this, she claimed the overall (male or female) fastest known time on the AT and became the first woman to set the mark. Join Davis as she leads a conversation on what inspires her to achieve amazing goals!


Grandfather Presents: Ryan Kirby

Thursday, July 27, 6 to 8 p.m.

It takes a trained eye to recreate the way sunlight bounces off a deer antler or to perfectly place a thousand feathers as a tom turkey lunges forward into a thunderous gobble. For wildlife artist Ryan Kirby, the training takes place on his hunting adventures — each morning in the field used as a time to watch, listen and learn. Join Kirby, frequent cover artist for Outdoor and Field and Stream magazines, as he shares ways to experience the natural world.


Grandfather Presents: Tom Earnhardt

Thursday, Aug. 24, 6 to 8 p.m.

Join the host of public television’s “Exploring North Carolina,” Tom Earnhardt, for a heart-warming evening on Grandfather Mountain. Earnhardt, the consummate outdoorsman, believes all plant and animal life depend on each other, whether it’s a big buck roaming northeastern North Carolina or a salamander crawling over rocks in Hazel Creek in the Smoky Mountains. Earnhardt, a resident of Raleigh, has spent his life exploring from the mountains to the sea. His multifaceted dedication encompasses hunting and fishing and researching and studying nature in the Tar Heel State.


Grandfather Presents: Leigh Ann Henion

Monday, Sept. 25, 6 to 8 p.m.

Fuel your passion for the outdoors by exploring the life of the High Country’s own Leigh Ann Henion, New York Times bestselling author of “Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World.” The book details how Henion chased eclipses, migrations and other natural phenomena around the globe to reawaken her sense of wonder. “Phenomenal” was named an editor’s pick by O: The Oprah Magazine, Backpacker and Barnes & Noble Review. Elizabeth Gilbert called it a “gorgeously written and deeply thoughtful memoir.”


Each event starts at 6 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres in the Nature Museum, followed by the lecture at 6:30 p.m. in the Nature Museum Auditorium. The programs are limited to 100 guests, and registration is required by emailing judi@grandfather.com or calling (828) 733-2013. Admission to each lecture is $20 per person and free to members of Grandfather Mountain’s Bridge Club. To learn more about the Bridge Club, or to become a member, visit https://grandfather.com/preserving-protecting/become-a-member/.

The not-for-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325.