Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Reflecting on the TTEC Program

Megan Capuano
South Middleton School District
W. G. Rice Elementary
Boiling Springs, PA
2015 TTEC Cohort

There is much to reflect on as I’m working on the curriculum for the TTEC program and looking through the feedback forms from the summer session. I can feel the love!

The feedback made me smile, chuckle, think, and definitely feel inspired. I want to stretch beyond status quo as a teacher, I want more students to see the trail and experience the outdoors. I want the students to have different ways to approach learning and I want them to learn, grow, and move forward.

Over the summer I had the privilege to take some boys on the trail with my Ready To Climb (RTC) program. We spent time both in the classroom and on the trail. Some of the boys didn’t know what the Appalachian Trail (AT) was before RTC, some had been in the woods while their dad’s hunted, only one had hiked a bit of the AT before, and all of them were recommended for the program based on their academic, behavior, or social needs. It was a great summer filled with hiking, laughter, encouragement, kids being pushed beyond their comfort zone, group projects, presentations, and learning new things for all of us.

By the time I attended the summer session of TTEC, Ready To Climb had been in progress. During TTEC Dr. Marshall Welch talked about service learning. He broke it down into the “what” are we doing, “so what” happens now, why should we care, and the “now what” are we going to do to change the behavior. The boys had been learning about changes to the world due to humans and animals. During the hikes we took time to look at the changes to the landscape and to the actual trail. The boys would watch me collect trash that I would find along the trail and I made sure they had bags in their packs to put any of their trash from snacks and lunch. We did the “Trash Timeline” Leave No Trace activity and the students matched material items to the length of time it would take to decompose. We were educating the boys about what happens to the world when humans drop garbage and why it was necessary to learn about it.

After the summer TTEC session I expanded the next few lessons to incorporate a deeper service learning component. We had been teaching the “what” and the “so what” but not the “now what”. The next hike we had planned was at Pine Grove Furnace in July. It is a very busy part of the trail during that time of year. Many thru hikers are arriving and the park has two swimming areas plus an alternative hike to Pole Steeple which is a popular spot for people to visit. Pine Grove is a park for campers, day trippers, and many local summer camps of all ages K-12 spend the day. Many students have never been to the country or in the woods. The day my paraprofessional and I did the pre-hike we noticed a lot of garbage. Back at the school during the class before the students’ hike we had a “Trash Talk”. I reviewed what we had learned about humans and landscape, talked about what happens to trash, and why we needed to do something about the garbage – the “now what”. The day of the hike each boy received a grocery bag to collect trash. At the end of the hike we talked about what they did and why they did it.

As a special surprise, I had one of Pennsylvania’s Dairy Princesses greet the boys at the bus. She gave them muscle milk, cheese, and pretzels while explaining the benefits of exercise and good nutrition. She talked to them about their bags of trash and they talked trash. She congratulated them on their service to the world and talked about her volunteer work and why it was important.

It was a great summer on the trail and working with Ready To Climb and attending TTEC. The summer session of TTEC was just as inspiring as the spring, filled with more useful information and definitely more camaraderie. It gave us an opportunity to collaborate with other educators and encourage us on individual journeys which brings new ideas for our students.

Pictures: The boys with their bags of trash and with the Dairy Princess Morgan Brymesser

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