Thursday, July 23, 2015


Melissa Largen
Physical Science
Grayson County High School
2015 TTEC Cohort

Saturday, July 18

The word “adventure” conjures up all kinds of excitement.  I think my love of it stems from childhood. My parents would wake my sister and I up on Saturday mornings and say, “time to get up girls, we’re going on an adventure”. We would scramble to see who could get dressed and into the back of the old panel station wagon first and off we went, on our adventure. We never knew where we might end up. Sometimes we would just follow old gravel roads around the mountains, stopping to play in burbling streams and climb over boulders. At times we would get on the Blue Ridge Parkway and stop at the first trail head we came to and just start hiking.  We would walk until we got to the end of the trail or until my parents had judged that they would have to carry us back if we didn’t turn back.  I always wanted to see what was around the next turn and that was true of riding in the car as well as hiking.   Sometimes we stayed in the mountains of Virginia.  Sometimes we would end up in North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, or on one memorable occasion, Kentucky.  My sister and I each had our own pair of binoculars and would clamber all over the back of that station wagon looking out windows and vying to be the first to see the deer, cow, bear, or whatever animal my dad challenged us to find. These were before the days of mandatory seat belts, mind you. All of the fun memories have one thing in common, I never knew where I would be at the end of the day, nor what adventures I might have along the way.

Teaching is like that, an adventure. I teach eighth grade science at a small rural high school in Southwest Virginia and I must say that every day is an adventure. I may have some vague notion of what I expect to achieve by the end of the day but I have absolutely no idea what adventures will befall me during those seven and a half hours I’m surrounded by hormonal thirteen and fourteen year olds. One thing I can say about teaching is that it is NEVER BORING! I would be less than honest if I said I loved every minute of it but truthfully, I wouldn’t have it any other way I learn as much from my hyper charges as they hopefully, learn from me. That love of learning has lead me to my current adventure, Trail to Every Classroom.

My school is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. We are approximately 25 miles from the part of the Appalachian Trail that passes through Grayson Highlands State Park. It is about a half hour drive up crooked, bendy mountain roads. My goal is to get my students on part of that trail. My first step was to informally question the students in my spring semester classes as to how many had visited the state park. The answers were very discouraging. Less than half of my students had ever been to the park and most of them had little too no hiking experience, outside of hunting, that is. My next step is to create a survey for my fall semester students to take detailing their experience with hiking, visiting state or national parks, anything to do with outdoors. I am collaborating with two other science teachers in my building as well as a member of our local AT Club. Our goal is take both our fall and spring semester classes out onto the trail.  We plan on incorporating some of the “Hip-Pocket” activities that we experimented with during our spring workshop with Kathryn. We all had a lot of fun debating which nasty human habit is worse and trying to convince others our opinion was the correct one. We are hoping to get more great ideas from our workshop this summer. Can’t wait to see everyone in Sheperdstown.

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North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald