Tuesday, March 12, 2013

TTEC Leads Education Outside

Press Release prepared by Mary Bennett, Franklin A.T. Community Ambassador

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) invites local educators and youth leaders to participate in the Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) 2013 program which connects youth and communities along the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). 
Launched in 2006, in partnership with the National Park Service, the program offers educators the resources and training to use place-based education and service learning in and beyond the classroom walls.  This method of teaching encourages students to solve local community problems while offering a hands-on learning experience.  Participants rediscover the outdoors and sense of exploration while learning effective, meaningful ways to lead others in their own discoveries of nature, physical challenges, and the distinctiveness of their own communities.   
The program was developed to engage students in volunteer activities; encourage the love of learning; promote healthy lifestyles; promote conservation of and form a respect for the Appalachian Trail.  The TTEC program summons educators along the A.T. corridor to develop their own experiential learning curriculum based on state educational standards that integrate a hands-on study of the A.T.  

“ The significance of the Appalachian Trail is not its length (2, 184+ miles), but its story of civic engagement in preserving a recreational, natural, cultural, spiritual, and now, educational, resource for challenges and dreams,” states Rita Hennessy with the National Park Service. 
Divided into a series of three workshops, TTEC encompasses the fundamentals of hiking, environmental stewardship and ethics, GPS technology, grant writing, an opportunity for backpacking, networking and curriculum writing specific to the individuals instructional subject.  Once these workshops are completed, ongoing support is provided by the ATC, NPS and the local trail management partners.  All lodging, meals, and materials are included with an additional option for graduate credit.  Research has shown that this professional development program for K-12 teachers provides educators with the tools to increase student achievement, community engagement and environmentally responsible behavior.
Janis Brannon, TTEC alumnus shares, “The TTEC program has provided Summit Charter School (Cashiers, NC) with resources need to integrate environmental education, local history, and service learning into our curriculum.”
According to Lauren Bennett, 2007 TTEC alumnus, “This program inspired and equipped me to integrate place-based education into my curriculum”.  

Teaming up with the U.S. Forest Service and the Nantahala Hiking Club, Summit Charter School students (Cashiers, NC,) progress annually from beginning nature walks to advanced service learning projects conducting water quality stream testing in the Standing Indian recreational area. 
“I think one of the greatest feelings is seeing my student hike and truly enjoy nature.  They point out so many new and different things; leaf shapes, colors, animal burrows, nest, bird calls, buds on branches, back bug eggs, etc. It is hard to do long hikes with them because they are observing so many wonderful things.  This is so different from the first few years when they seemed to think the only purpose of a hike was to see who could hike the fastest!” shared Marsha LaFontaine.
To date this program has trained over 275 teachers from Georgia to Maine and enthusiasm for the program is growing. 
Beth Poteat explains the sense of renewal and fellowship with peers, “Trail to Every Classroom was a great opportunity to meet and share experiences with teachers in other subject areas from all over the country while strengthening one’s own classroom practices.” 
Likewise, Rachael Kerby, expresses a new perspective in her teaching, “TTEC is a program that draws you into the natural world through the eyes of a child.  It exposed me to different people and their passions for nature and the A.T. as well as introduced me to ways to draw students into the outdoors.”
“Enlisting the support of Nantahala Hiking Club members and parent volunteers broadens the school curriculum to a whole community level”, sites Mary Bennett, ATC Community Ambassador to Franklin, NC.  
This spring Bennett is assisting the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee educate students on common native and invasive plants along the Franklin Greenway.
The value of the program is perhaps best expressed by TTEC 2010 alumnus, Charlene Ward, “The TTEC program has helped renew my appreciation of the beautiful area we live in.  It has reminded me of many of my favorite childhood memories and experiences I had learning about nature.  It also increased my desire to learn more about the local history of the people and places in our community.  My new knowledge about service learning and place-based education allows me to take advantage of many teachable moments on our beautiful campus.  I would recommend the program to any educator or professional that is interested in teaching future generation the importance of caring for our environment and helping others.”
For more information about the Trail to Every Classrom program, email ttec@appalachiantrail.org  To apply online visit http://tinyurl.com/ttec2013 or visit www.appalachiantrail.org/TTEC

PHOTO:  Summit Charter School TTEC participants from L to R are (top row): Beth Poteat, Racheal Kerby, Lauren Bennett, Eric Sink.  Bottom row: Janis Brannon, Marsha LaFountaine, and Charlene Ward

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