Monday, October 22, 2018

National Trails Teaching Guide!

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Trail System Act, the Bureau of Land Management has created a teaching guide about National Scenic and Historic Trails.

Although these three lessons were designed with middle school in mind, they can also be used with upper elementary and high school students. Common core curriculum connections include english/language arts and social studies.

Check out the teaching guide, and be sure to let us know if you put it to use!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Student Mural

By Perry County Times
By Jim T. Ryan
Staff Writer
Driving Route 850 from Marysville to Shermans Dale will take you past a crossing for the Appalachian Trail (AT) on the footpath's meandering course through Perry County.
There, the white blazes mark the AT's path through fields and patches of trees, and a small parking area for hikers to step off from in Rye Twp.
A group of Susquenita Middle School students have made that parking area a little brighter with a bottle cap mosaic depicting a rising sun, mountains, trees and the AT symbol. 
"I've wanted to do a bottle cap mural for a long time and this seemed perfect," said Abby Fisher, a Susquenita art teacher who designed the mosaic and helped students put it together.
Six students in the life skills class, together with about 10 other middle school students and their teachers spent much of last school year collecting, sorting and arranging the various colored caps and lids from sodas, sports drinks, and coffee cans.
There were upwards of 30 students working on the project at various times
The project was more than just taking trash and turning it into a picture, the teachers said. It helped all the students in a wide variety of academic and social skills.
"The art was secondary to the social aspect of this for the students," Fisher said.
Jeff Henry, the life skills teacher, said it really helped his students work on cooperation and communication skills. 
Paul Marth, a Susquenita social studies teacher involved with the project, said working on an art project that would be featured at an AT trailhead fit in with his curriculum too. The trail runs close to the Susquenita campus in Duncannon and is an integral part of local and U.S. history.
"Our kids drive by it every day," he said.
Marth also is an avid hiker and was in contact with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Mountain Club of Maryland, a volunteer group that helps maintain part of the trail in Perry County. They wanted to do something creative with the back side of the message board, Marth said.
So he said, yes, the middle school could help.
The teachers paid for the hardware materials and they asked for donated bottle caps. The students sorted them, painted the board and used screws to fasten the approximately 1,000 caps to the board.
"They don't get to use power tools often, so that was really cool for them," Henry said.
The students took a class trip with their teachers on Sept. 29 to visit their art, now installed at the parking area along Route 850. And they confirmed their teacher's assessment: power tools -- awesome.
The best part was "sorting out the colors and using the drills," said student Austin Ciccocioppo.
"My favorite was the colors," student Delorean Michael said.
"Using the drills," student Codie Nelson said, laughing, when asked about his favorite part of the project.
The project is precisely what trail groups were looking for to spruce up the message kiosk at the parking area.
"It's sweet to look over my shoulder and see all that color while I'm mowing the parking area," said Christy Hoover of Carlisle.
Hoover is a volunteer with the Mountain Club of Maryland who has been helping to maintain the trail and parking area for the past 10 years.
"One of our goals is to get kids engaged with the trail and this is a great way to do that," said Ryan Seltzer, the corridor stewardship program manager with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Boiling Springs.
The high visibility of the mural will be a welcome sight to hikers coming off the AT, he said.
A plaque is being made that will be attached to the kiosk and identify the mural as a project of the Susquenita Middle School students.
Everyone -- most importantly, the students -- will take something away from the project, teachers said.
"The kids are going to know it'll be there for a while," Fisher said, "and they can take pride that they were involved."
Jim T. Ryan can be reached via e-mail at

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Great resources from Nancy Reeder!

Nancy Reeder of Franklin, NC has developed a fantastic set of curriculum-based activities with an Appalachian Trail theme! Check them out here:

You can find this link anytime, and lots of other good stuff, under "Resource Links" on the right side of this blog.

From Nancy's Introduction to her project:

These activities with answer keys have been prepared so they are ready for implementation in your classroom at any time. They are divided into five subjects: Mathematics, History, Geography, Science, and Language.

The section from Springer Mountain, GA to Damascus, VA is emphasized, although some activities involve other parts of the trail. Class as well as research type lesson ideas are included to complement your general outdoor curriculum. They are intended to broaden your students’ knowledge of the Appalachian Trail.

Everything you need to complete the activity is included. Some of them are intended to be copied for each student, and some are intended to be put on your smart board, and discussed with your entire class, or be given to individuals to read and research.

There are various levels of activities geared for intermediate grade students as well as middle school students.

You can find the link to these resources anytime, and lots of other good stuff, under "Resource Links" on the right side of this blog.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Laurel Run Hiking Trip: Field Trip Day

Stephanie Tuttle
Fairfield Elementary School
Rockbridge County, VA

The day of the field trip came and all of my planning and preparation was about to be tested. The students were excited for the trip and we were able to load the busses and be on our way.

Boxerwood, The Department of Wildlife and Inland Fisheries, the STEM teacher, and parents all meet us at Laurel Run. The site was a great place for 120 students and their parents to explore and learn. Laurel Run had a huge pavilion with tables and picnic tables were scattered around the site. The students got off the buses and I divided the students into 4 groups. We then started the activities. The 5th grade teacher and I planned a variety of activities which cover all content areas. The students participated in a hike, water testing, nature journaling, an antonym search activity, and a STEM survival activity.

A member of the Boxerwood staff and myself led the hiking activity. The students came to us and we divided them into two groups, so the students could better experience nature. I took my groups first and the Boxerwood staff member started her hike 5 minutes after my group. We started the hike. The students were give cameras and directed to take a “selfie” of themselves and 3 “WOW” moment pictures. A “WOW” moment is a moment during the hike the students were amazed by what they were experiencing. As we hiked the students took pictures of the waterfall, rock formations, leaves, mushrooms and anything else amazing. Part way through the hike the students were given crayons and ask to match the crayon color to something they saw in nature. Overall the students enjoyed the hike expect for the gnats.
Another activity the students participated in was water testing. Boxerwood lead this activity and brought all of the materials needed. The students worked in small groups to test the healthiness of the water. They tested the pH, oxygenation, and the amount of pollution in the water. The students enjoyed this activity because it allowed them to compare the cleanliness of this water to other location they have tested with Boxerwood.

Students participated in a journaling and an antonyms search activity. The students were asked to journal about their experience throughout the day, the weather, and wrote a haiku about what they heard in nature. The students then worked with a partner to find objects in nature they described the antonyms they were given. The students were given egg cartons with two antonyms written on them like smooth and rough. They then had to find objects in nature to match their words. These were great language arts activities because the students were able to reflect on their experience and explore nature up close.
The final activities the students participated in was a STEM survival activity. The students had to figure out how long their stride was and do the math to determine the distance they could walk in a given amount of time as well as how many steps they take during each mile they walk. The students were then given a survival situation and asked to figure out how they would survive. The students came up with a variety of creative ways to survive.

This field trip was a success. The students experienced nature in their community. Overall, the students enjoyed the variety of activities. The 4th and 5th grade students enjoyed going on the trip together and getting to learn from each other. This trip was a success and I have many ideas on how to improve and make this trip better for next year.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Laurel Run Hiking Trip: Planning and Preparation

Stephanie Tuttle
Fairfield Elementary School
Rockbridge County, VA

This field trip started with the idea to take 4th and 5th grade students on a hike in their community. I wanted the students to better understand the beauty of the nature that surrounds them. To many students going to Walmart is the highlight of their week and I wanted them to see that their community offers so much more.

This trip would not have been possible without the help from Boxerwood. Boxerwood is an organization in Rockbridge County whose goal is to teach students how to care for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Boxerwood offered up a variety of sites to choose from located across the county. I choose the Laurel Run site at Goshen pass because most of the students live close to this area, but have never stopped and explored.

At first this location seemed to be the best and easiest choice. As the field trip approached I learned we needed an access pass from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Each adult who went on the trip would have to buy a pass to come. I was worried our trip would not run smoothly if parents had to buy passes to come. Luckily one of the students’ parents is a game warden and was able to waive the fee for the pass. He also came out and went on the trip with us, a pleasant addition I did not originally plan for.

I wanted the activities provided to cover all content areas. Selecting the activities was the easy part. The activities the students would do were Nature Journaling, Egg Carton Antonyms, Water Testing, Survival Scenarios, Hiking Math, and Crayon Color matching. The 5th grade teacher and I had to design and created all of the activities the students participated in. This took more time than I originally expected. Planning for a field trip where you have to pack everything but the bathroom took organization and time. Working with the 5th grade science teacher was helpful because I was able to use her experience and knowledge of creating field trips to help plan our trip.

Overall planning the Laurel Run hiking trip would not have been possible without knowledgeable and experienced teachers to help guide me through the process.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Workshop in Rockbridge County, VA, August 2017

Rockbridge County, Virginia is home to two designated A.T. Communities--Glasgow and Buena Vista--as well as a wealth of natural resources. Thanks to a fundraiser by the A.T. Communities, ATC, and the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club, the Rockbridge Public Schools Foundation has a special fund set aside to support outdoor education for local students.

August 1-2, 2017 ATC partnered with the Foundation to host a TTEC workshop designed to arm teachers with tools and inspiration to make the most of this grant opportunity. The workshop was based at Natural Bridge State Park, and included hands-on outdoor learning with a STEAM focus each morning and curriculum development in the afternoons.

The first morning was spent on the main trail at Natural Bridge State Park, passing under the famous bridge itself and cycling in small groups through activity stations for hands-on experience of activities teachers could use with their students. NBSP Lead Park Naturalist Katie Charles led a creekside station on macroinvertebrate sampling, with supplies on loan from Boxerwood Gardens. ATC's Kathryn Herndon-Powell led a series of Leave No Trace activities, and ATC Natural Resource Specialist Conner McBane led a station that explored a number of citizen science programs and nature identification apps using ipads generously on loan from Rockbridge County Public Schools.

Day 2, everyone hopped in the vehicles for a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the A.T. at Thunder Ridge Overlook. Progress was slowed down by a road maintenance project on the Parkway, but eventually the group got to get out of the vehicles and walk on the Trail. 

Carol Caswell greeted the group on behalf of the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club and gave a short presentation about what the Club does and ways they can work with and support teachers, and she tagged along with a group for the hike. ATC's Molly Hagan led a trailside series of Hip Pocket Activities, and Kathryn led an A.T. Math exercise and an exploration of fibonacci numbers at Thunder Hill Shelter. 

TTEC alumni Betty Gatewood and Lisa Connors--illustrator and author of the book Milkweed Matters--led a nature journaling station. On returning to the State Park, several local organizations introduced themselves over lunch. Katie Charles spoke about the State Park's education programs, Kathy Hall gave an intro to the Glenwood Pedlar Ranger District of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, and Hannah West outlined the robust outdoor education programs at Boxerwood Gardens.

The 11 educators who attended the workshop brought great energy and enthusiasm that reflects their passion and talent for teaching. Several exciting curriculum ideas were hatched and connections made across grade levels and disciplines. Many thanks to all the partners who helped make this workshop possible, especially Kathy Burant of the Rockbridge County Public Schools Foundation! We hope to be hearing about some Rockbridge County students exploring their public lands--maybe even the A.T.--this fall and next spring.

North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald