Tuesday, August 12, 2014

TTECwork: Building Your TTEC Community Network workshop July 21-23, 2014

Excerpt from an upcoming A.T. Journeys article by Kathy Seiler

Ranger Betty Gatewood, a TTEC alum, PATC volunteer, and co-Chair of the TTEC Advisory Council, welcomes the group to Shenandoah National Park

The TTEC-work: Building Your Trail to Every Classroom Community Network workshop was held July 21 to 23 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia. This focused and action-packed workshop covered a wealth of Trail-related topics. Projects for both community and student involvement, strategies for building awareness and education, and methods to align group activities with community, state, and national partnerships were explored.

Teacher Michael Smith-Foot of Blairsville, GA putting together the puzzle!
TTEC alumni were invited to apply for the program with the team concept in mind, which is to bring a TTEC alumnus, a "new" teacher not yet trained in TTEC, and a community member or local Trail club representative together. Bringing together different backgrounds of experience and points of reference creates stronger possibilities for networking back in home areas, and strengthens Trail ties for students and communities alike.

Beginning a quest in the A.T. Community of Front Royal, VA.
This new model of TTEC as a network focused on specific goals and ideas, with built-in time for teams to work together and make an action plan for their community. Brainstorming sessions to generate ideas, share obstacles, and suggest possible solutions covered many situations. Teachers and community members from Dalton Massachusetts, Harlem Valley New York, Waynesboro Pennsylvania, Franklin North Carolina, and Blairsville Georgia kept busy from morning until mid-evening after-dinner sessions.

The group also tested a new interactive board game (Thru-Hike: The Appalachian Trail Game; currently on Kickstarter) and gave feedback to its creators, participated in a Quest in Front Royal, and hiked part of the A.T. in Shenandoah National Park, collecting data for the Trail-wide American chestnut MEGA Transect along the way as an example of citizen science on the A.T. Each team member also received a full set of hiking maps for their state.
Shenandoah National Park A.T. marker

The Georgia team shared how their TTEC activities are integrated into their middle school. Sylvia Garner uses the Trail as a year-long theme for art activities. During the unit on Georgia O'Keefe's style, Appalachian flowers are used as subjects for students' art creations. Bob Williams showed photos of their 6th-8th grade students hiking the Trail at various sections near Blood Mountain, and utilizing outdoor spaces as living classrooms. Michael Smith-Foot voiced his passion for continuing this mammoth but rewarding challenge of "No Child Left Inside" for their students.

The Waynesboro team set a goal of creating a Quest with student involvement throughout the upcoming year. This project, a type of treasure hunt/scavenger hunt using facts and history in a rhyming format, will invite the curious to explore the town in a fun way. Having it available and ready to use by next summer's first area "Appalachian Trail Festival" is the goal. (Check out the Facebook page for "The Greater Waynesboro, Pennsylvania Appalachian Trail Community" for updates.)
Historic chimney on the A.T.

Kristina Moe, a librarian from Franklin North Carolina, seemed to speak from the community-at-large group when summarizing her insights into sharing student learning project ideas with teachers, and how both groups can be helpful for each other. The key is awareness − and time to coordinate goals, strategies, outcomes, and evaluations. This TTEC-work workshop afforded such an opportunity.

Turks Cap Lily
Dalton, Massachusetts teacher Meg Donovan remarked that this was her first professional development conference that was multi-state, multi-subject, and sponsored by multiple organizations. She was pleased to find herself energized and excited about taking home more than just a binder of notes.

Enjoying the view on Mary's Rock

Working together with teachers of various grades and subjects definitely spans beyond the usual possibilities.

Attendees enjoyed blackberry ice cream milkshakes at Elkwallow Wayside, four black bear sightings, and the valley view from Mary's Rock while in Shenandoah National Park. On campus, pockets of free time afforded walks to see the endangered animals bred at SCBI, such as maned wolves, red-headed cranes, cloud leopards, and Clint, the Marianas crow. As each day passed, the group evolved from sitting with "who you came with" to new cross-Trail acquaintances, demonstrating the program’s early success through meaningful human connections. As part of the concluding ceremony for participation certificates, the group sang Tora Huntingdon's original "The Appalachian Trail Song" written by her second grade class in Dalton.
Tawnya Finney with a blackberry milkshake!
 Speaking not only for myself but for the entire group − kudos to the fantastic team of TTECwork facilitators: Delia Clark, Facilitator from Woodstock Vermont; Rita Hennessy, Assistant Superintendent of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Karen Lutz, Regional Director of ATC’s Mid-Atlantic Region, Kathryn Herndon, of the ATC’s Southwest and Central Viriginia Regional Office, and Betty Gatewood, Shenandoah National Park naturalist/interpreter, and her husband, Mark. Other speakers included Sonja Carlborg from Front Royal, Bonnie Harvey of Portland State University, Dick Hostelley of the Potomac A.T. Club, Marlene Jefferson from Loudon County Virginia, and Pete Irvine of George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

One of FOUR bears spotted in the Park,

Feedback from the entire group, from leaders to participants, shows positive reactions. Nurturing those willing to use their time, energy, and student/parent/community ties with expertise from Trail professionals and the supporting maintenance clubs will help to keep the Trail in good stead for its future.

Trying out a "Hip Pocket Activity"

Getting folks out on the Trail of all ages (it’s always amazing to find locals who know it’s there, but don’t use it) is the main goal. After all, as the African environmentalist, Baba Dioum, remarked in 1968: “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” Teaching what the wonders of the Trail can reveal to those who pass over it, and what the Trail needs for its conservation, is why we band together.

The TTECwork 2014 cohort at Mary's Rock!

North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald