Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Final Reflection

Randy Adams
Northside Middle School
Roanoke, VA
2015 TTEC Cohort

Looking back over the last few months, and the final group meeting in Damascus, Va.; I have one final reflection. However, it is not the last time I will reflect by myself, with my peers, or my students. It is the vision of the future.

The process of digesting the vast information In the TTEC program will be ongoing over the next months, and years. I want to use the strategies, ideas, and projects in my math class; however, I have had to settle for “baby steps” using only portions of activities that connect directly to the curriculum set forth by my employer. Have I been disappointed by my work and attempts to connect my students to the Appalachian Trail? Yes, but I see that it’s an ongoing process. Do I still have plans to use the things I have seen and experienced? Yes, but again the plan must take place little by little. The process for the future is don’t give up, keep trying and doing. When the students start to see the connections we give them to “places” near them, they start to value their own observations and reflections.

However, the vision that I see for the future is not only in my classroom, but in the school and school systems. We have connected to places as a group of educators. Now, we need to keep that connectedness we feel at our excursions to help each other and those who become interested in what we are doing. My challenge is this: keep in contact using social media and the internet, it’s easy enough and we already do it with our other “social circles”. I see in the reflection of my TTEC experience is that we need to keep our groups going informally. Not only do we help each other with ideas, activities, and work; but the social and moral support is out of this world in helping fuel the flame of placed based learning.

It’s a simple enough idea, but will we take this challenge? That is up to you, but as for me, I will continue to try.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Textbook find

Rosemary Young
Grayson County High School
Independence, VA
TTEC 2015

Miracle of miracles today. Just thumbing through my brand new Earth Science textbook for this year and this is what I found. I plan on using this in the future and perhaps incorporating the awesome Appalachian trail map we got at the summer workshop!

Creative Expression on The AT

Colleen Gentry
Prices Fork Elementary
Blacksburg, VA
TTEC 2015

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.” 
John Muir

Walking.... putting one foot in front of the other seems such a simple thing. When you are hiking on the Appalachian Trail there are many of these footfalls. Each one carries meaning in a unique way, and each traveler has their own individual expression that carries on.

My husband, Matt, and I have been so fortunate to both enjoy this extraordinary footpath and to bring our own craft to express this love. 

Matt is an amazing visual artist. He must have his time in the woods. He brings a simple sketch book with his huge heart and vision and records amazing snapshots of nature. Pencil drawings, defined with pen and ink, mark his artistic talents.

His approach to this style of journaling gave me a vision for my project in designing my lesson plan devoted to nature journaling with elementary school children. These are the key elements I have seen as important: taking time to sit still, observe, use a blank piece of paper, a pencil, and a curious nature–take a risk and reflect on the process.

What am I doing while Matt is sketching?

Knitting! Yes, it is hip to KNIT. The meditative feeling of needles gliding back and forth, back and forth, is truly a craft that lends itself to being in nature and in the woods. Knitting is calming. It brings me to the center of where I can think about things. The beautiful yarns reflect the gorgeous colors of sky, water, earth.

On one hiking trip, I knitted a wool hat that I finished before the fire and was able to wear to bed to keep me warm.   My biggest project was a knitted blanket that was made of 85 individual squares. These squares were carried in my backpack and done over campfires, in the tent during thunderstorms, on breaks sitting on sunny rocks, during car rides which took us and back and forth to our trailhead destinations.

The blanket is something that reminds me of the many people we have met and the time we have shared together. Our sweet cat loves to cozy up.

My hope is for everyone to explore their own creative expression!

Go out and enjoy NATURE.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

TTEC Helps the Hike Inn with Program Development for The Outside School!

Corinne Peace, Katy Trietsch, Andrew Rogers
Sensory forest walk
Len Foote Hike Inn
Outside School
Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia

 At the Hike Inn we talk about the Appalachian Trail (AT) every day. By trail, we are 4.2 miles from Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the famous footpath. All guests, young and old alike, hike in and out of the Inn and experience firsthand the rolling ups and downs of the Appalachian Mountains. For many, this distance and terrain is a challenge, and they feel a great sense of accomplishment upon reaching the Inn. For some, as they look at the great AT map in the lobby, they are deeply inspired, and a dream is born. The Hike Inn wants to help more youth experience the Southern Appalachian ecosystem and the trail, invoking stewardship and fostering a lifelong relationship with nature and hiking.

Interactive Leave No Trace game

The Outside School, an education program at the Hike Inn, provides a unique opportunity for exceptional place-based service learning. The students hike 4.8 miles through Amicalola Falls State Park and Chattahoochee National Forest in the North Georgia mountains and stay at the Hike Inn, a LEED-certified backcountry lodge. The trail provides experiential outdoor education lessons on wilderness hiking and Leave No Trace practices along with forest ecology and earth science principles. At the Inn, the students have direct experience with green building sustainability techniques such as solar panels, composting toilets, native gardens and permaculture design, rain water catchment, and vermicomposting. School groups staying two nights have an option to day hike to Springer Mountain and the Appalachian Trail.
Worm composting piques student curiosity

The program’s foundation is comparing forest ecology and Leave No Trace principles with green building practices. Highlighted is the evolving human relationship with this land, from indigenous use, to the era of resource extraction, to the call for protection.

This leads directly to the shift from general protection of natural resources to the goal of sustainability in all aspects – from how we hike to how we design and live in our buildings. Our social and personal responsibilities of stewardship and civic engagement are informed by our increasing body of knowledge - namely ecology, conservation biology, and green engineering.

Teachers are able to choose from a variety of subjects and activities that complement their curriculum goals while addressing state standards, including service-learning with on-site garden and trail maintenance projects. Our 2015 TTEC training has provided valuable time and tools for our program planning and building relationships with teachers. We are quite inspired by the passion and dedication of outstanding teachers along the AT corridor, and we look forward to working with them! 
Students on GATC outreach trip learn Leave No Trace

As a community, we know TTEC cohorts join us in our common hopes and goals for our youth – to provide engaging outdoor recreation and education experiences, to create a lifelong connection with nature and the trail, and to inspire them to be the stewards of the future.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Phenology in Grayson County, Virginia

Rosemary Young
Grayson County High School
Independence, VA

ATC Natural Resource Specialist Conner McBane came to our school to teach our Bio I students about phenology. His visit went great. The kids were well behaved & Connor was an excellent presenter. We've been out several times since and the students have done an excellent job thanks to Connors' great teaching.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mountain Called Katahdin

Colleen Gentry
Prices Fork Elementary School
Blacksburg, VA
2015 TTEC Cohort

The Appalachian Trail took my husband and I to the top of the world! Whirling amongst swirling clouds and spitting rain, the top of Mount Katahdin seemed like it could possibly be out of reach. About two thirds of our way up the white blazed trail, we even considered turning around. But once we crested a plateau feature called Table Land, we knew we could complete our journey.

The summit of the mountain, at 5,269 feet, was already occupied when we arrived. All morning we had been passed by strong, lanky hikers on their way to finishing their epic trek. The trail had brought us all together. My goal was to make a plug for reaching at the top of the mountain!

Our journey to the mountain top that day was made even more special because of the friends we made during the Summer Institute in West Virginia. Rosie and Jessica were residents of Millinocket Maine, and we met them during this summer time. When my husband and I said that we were heading up that way, they immediately said, “Call us when you get in town!”

We did and it made our trip! It was so fun to have a connection to Maine and its people and environment through these generous and thoughtful folks. Rosie is a teacher, bus driver and librarian at the Granite elementary school in town, and we had a lovely visit to her home for Whoopie Pies. What is a Whoopie Pie? It depends who you ask, of course. Both Maine and Pennsylvania claim the delectable treat. A chocolate cake with creamy white filling.

By hiking the Appalachian Trail and getting to know its people places, villages and regions, we have gotten to know a part of America that few have experienced.

Trail to Every Classroom Summer Institute gave us amazing educational opportunities.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Tale of Two Trails...

Randy Adams
Northside Middle School
Roanoke, VA
2015 TTEC Cohort

There are two trails that run through my mind: the trail of my experiences and another of my thoughts. In experience, I have not made it easy on myself or on those around me. Often, I have picked the harder, less traveled trail because of my own stubbornness. In my thoughts, I feel the tug of the current me at conflict with the younger version of myself that loved playing outside and adventure. As a child of the beginning of the technology explosion, I cannot fathom the need for the technology that our students require and demand on a daily basis. Although, I do catch myself checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and email on my phone more often now than I did in the beginning. I feel that our students and children are experiencing this conflict too between their two trails, but have no guide or motivation to change. Many only have one trail because they do not venture beyond the safety of their own yard or neighborhood, and many rarely venture out of the house.

We have created the idea of the world that we live in as separate from nature; however, this can’t be further from the real truth. We enclose ourselves in our safe little homes, in safe-guarded communities, in safe little vacuums that only want what’s easy. Our children are beginning to suffer from this idea of safety because they are satisfied with being expected to be self-sufficient from a young age, but dependent upon the idea of safety due to technology. In short, we sit our children in front of television or computer to keep them occupied and out of our hair because we only have a limited amount of time in our busy lives. If all of our technology is meant to save us time, then why do adults and children alike complain of not having enough time to fit everything they want to do in a standard day? Along with technology, the food we consume and our children consume is that of convenience. At school and home alike, the food that students eat is hardly appetizing and barely nutritious. Don’t get me wrong Mrs. Obama is trying to get the schools on board with her nutrition initiatives, but the students suffer again because their school food is barely tolerable. So, when kids get home they purge on fattening foods and video games until they are out of shape and obese. Again, our children do not connect to the natural flow of food and seasonality. Technology allows us to have whatever fruit and vegetable we want all year long; however, if you truly eat seasonally you soon realize that the supermarket cannot offer the true freshness of a peach in peak in July. Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our current problems with the same thinking that created them”. That being said, we cannot simply think that by giving children better food that they will be healthy. If we give them the outside and nature, then they surely will enjoy it to the fullest? No, what we must give them is a different way of thinking about the problem and a different way of thinking about solving their problems.

There in the middle of nowhere, atop a green mountain surrounded by beautiful trees and endless wildlife was a skinny, blonde haired boy that loved being outside. The only distraction was the vastness of the mountain and the lack of the few pleasures that a small southern city could provide. My summers of my youth were spent in part of Virginia’s Appalachia. No running water, electricity, or air conditioning. What was my parents thinking in shipping me off to my maternal grandmother’s farm on top of Jewel Ridge, Virginia? This is where the other trail began in my thinking. This is where my current trail returns to for guidance. I spent my days and nights helping my grandmother farm, dig roots like ginseng, mile cows, kill chickens, and especially playing throughout the day in what seemed like an ocean of forests. Not until later in my life did I appreciate the respite from city life in Roanoke, Virginia; which really ain’t that big on the scales of world-wide cities.

However, I see that my parents were wise to put me there in the middle of nowhere. I still got into trouble, but because I felt a connection to the land, my ancestors, and this magical place; I had an outlet that inspired me and challenged me. The outside world of Nature had a place in my mind, and my soul yearned to be there. Here I learned that being wild meant that I knew where the trails would lead, what to eat in the summer, or how to can it for later use in the winter. My grandmother was self-sufficient long before it was hip. It was a way of life, not choice. She was poor, but happy. I never went hungry or needed anything in the summers, my Maw Maw made sure that I had what I needed. Work coupled with play. Adventure couple with discipline. Life connected to the small world of that mountain. I often did not want to return to the big city life, but had to go because of school. My grandmother was my mentor for loving the outside world, but also the person who lead me to see that we need the “Wildness of the Forest” to give us a place of connectedness.

In this technological, fast paced, stress laden society that we have created we must do as Einstein suggested in finding a new way of thinking about the problems we have created. Nature is not a cure all for all our woes. Walking a trail in life leads from smaller trails to larger ones and vice versa. However, we must start by not letting our thinking or believing that we are separate from this wild world. But, that our life is connected in many deep and meaningful ways to our world and our places in this world. In TTEC, we have seen the importance of placed based learning. However, I suggest that we see that we are immersed in placed based learning in life. We must choose the better places to live and learn. Often, as I walk in the woods I hear my Maw Maw telling me of the trees, plants, and animals in her own way. I hear her calling me, but truly it is the place of Nature calling me. We must mentor our children and students in this way. To help them see that in the forest, on the trails of life, we travel and learn to be connected by being in balance with nature, not away from it.

There are many trails that we travel on in our lives, but just getting out and finding our connection to the world often leads us to unexpected places. Make a path, find a connection for students to see that we are all connected to our Mother Earth. Being a mentor, and learning beside our student is the best of all paths.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Strength in Numbers

Pia Houseal-Allport, Barb Lindtner, and Kim Stetser
Seven Generations Charter School
Emmaus, PA
2015 TTEC Cohort

For our final blog post, we wanted to spend time thinking about what Trail to Every Classroom has meant to us. We each found different avenues through which to apply the teachings within our educational settings. The core values of TTEC mean a little something different to each one of us and motivated us in a various ways. Collectively, though, we are all incredibly thankful for the supportive team we developed.

In the course of typical professional development seminars, you spend a few hours, potentially with someone you know, while listening to a lecturer. There is little time for conversation, let alone collaboration. TTEC does it differently. We learned together, out of town, over multiple days. We traveled together, bunked together, and celebrated together. Most importantly, we worked together to develop a curriculum that was close to our hearts. Even though the three of us began working at the same school, responsibilities take precedence and there doesn’t seem to be time for all of those things at home. TTEC really brought us together. Through our hiking/backpacking experiences, unit planning, and cohort activities, we have deepened our relationships into friendships that are supportive, understanding, and long-lasting.

Excitingly, we’ve also been able to extend the hands of friendship through our entire cohort. We have plans to meet up with the Mid-Atlantic Region in the spring, even after our commitments have expired, because we are so dedicated to the mission and sincerely enjoy working with the people the ATC team pulled together. The week together this summer with the whole 2015 cohort was incredible. The opportunity to develop relationships with people states away was invaluable, and we cherish the connections we’ve made along the AT!

There are so many exemplary comments to make about the Trail to Every Classroom program. For us, the best part is the camaraderie and collaboration we developed as a group. The three of us started as friendly colleagues, applying for an exciting workshop that fit the mission and vision of our workplace. Now, months later, we are truly a family who has found strength in numbers through trying times. Thank you ATC and TTEC!

Pia, Barb, and Kim

Friday, December 11, 2015

Starting small, hoping for a big impact

Becky Woody
Long Cane Middle School
LaGrange, Georgia

I just attended a teacher workshop and mentioned the ATC and the TTEC workshop, I had several teachers interested and they looked at the website for additional information. I am really looking forward to implementing the curriculum starting in January with a group of 20 at-risk students. I originally wanted to do it with a larger group, but my focused changed a little this year. I am starting small; however, I am hoping for a big impact.

TTEC has been an amazing experience. Meeting new people, learning new things, seeing new places, and learning more about the AT. I enjoy being alone to sit and think, write a poem that has been inspired by the beauty around me. But being alone doesn't mean lonely on the AT; at least for me it doesn't.

Thank you TTEC for a wonderful experience.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Excited for the A.T.!

Kim Stetser
Seven Generations Charter School
Emmaus, PA
2015 TTEC Cohort

As the weather turns cooler and hikes with my 5th graders become less frequent, I keep reminding myself that in a few months, I’ll get to bring my kiddos to the AT, some, for the first time ever.

We are all so excited for this trip. Many of these kids have been hiking at Seven Gen since Kindergarten, but they rarely explore farther than South Mountain, which is right outside our door. They know those trails like the back of their hands, and I can’t wait to show them something different. We’ve been working to determine ways we can help leave no trace on our local trail, while teaching others to do the same. It will be so fun to see them apply this knowledge to the AT – what can we bring to our section of the AT that will make a real difference?

Winter won’t be so bad this year. While we are cooped up inside, we will study the Leave No Trace system, the local trail system, and the Appalachian Trail system, identifying the components, processes, and functions of each. The important work will come from our comparisons of these systems. My hope is that our winter study will inspire great work this spring – collaborations with community partners, service learning, and new experiences for this year’s 5th grade class. These next few months are going to be a blast!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Outdoor Education without Leaving Campus

Rebecca King
Christiansburg Elementary
Christiansburg, Virginia

Although not impossible, it can be tough to get students off of school grounds – especially at the beginning of the year, when everyone is just settling in, and at the end of the year, when state testing takes over the calendar. 

The problem is, early fall and late spring are the best times to get outdoors with your students! At least here in southwest Virginia, you can never quite count on the weather cooperating between October and April. 

One way I have found to get students outdoors and engaging with nature during good weather is through a school garden. The downside is that I would much rather be hiking than weeding, but the upside is you don’t have to go through the hoops of organizing a field trip.

At Christiansburg Elementary, inspired by students who craved hands-on learning experiences, our staff set the dual goals of creating a beautiful, productive garden space and furthering student engagement.

Students worked to pick out supplies, adding up costs and debating the merits of one type of seed over another. Classes partnered with the Virginia Tech Sustainable Food Corps to give the garden a true makeover by clearing overgrowth, building new raised beds, and planting fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

The effort paid off. Little by little, the garden became a beautiful place to work and learn. Staff began incorporating the garden into more and more learning experiences in reading, math, science, and social studies. Students who struggled to find their niche in the regular classroom setting gained valuable leadership skills through garden caretaking. We were able to harvest enough food to send home with students for whom hunger is a daily experience.

I encourage all TTEC educators to give a school garden a try – it is outdoor education without the hassle of leaving school!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

TTEC Summer Workshop July 19-24, 2015

Roland Tester
U.S. Government Teacher
Daniel Boone High School
Gray, Tennessee 

I drove up to the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV on July 19th, mostly sticking to Interstate 81, with a few detours along the way (when I was young, my family took numerous trips to the Civil War battlefields that dot the landscapes of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland; in addition, I spent 5 years as a librarian in upstate western Virginia; revisiting old haunts from Big Lick to Foamhenge to Bridgewater was a most pleasant experience). I arrived at the NCTC in the early evening, got my credentials verified by the guard, and drove in to register, where I was surprised by the size and scope of the grounds and the facilities. 

I dropped off my gear at the Murie Lodge, and headed over to Commons Building for supper. I cannot express how amazing the food was at the NCTC. Just for an example, I didn’t have the prime rib Sunday evening because it was the least appetizing item on the menu. A USWS agent I talked to (who had been to the facility a number of times) said that training attendees generally gained 3-5 pounds while at the NCTC. I sent my Dad a photo of the Maryland Crab Cakes I had for lunch one day, and he accused me of harassment. 

The layout of the NCTC is well-planned and executed; parking areas at the lower outskirts of the campus, next to the lodges, with the Commons and Instructional Buildings at the upper side of campus, joined by a large wooded area in the center, linked by multiple-level walkways, especially beautiful at night. In addition to the cafeteria and the instructional buildings, the NCTC campus also boasts extensive laboratory facilities, a bar/lounge, a well-equipped gymnasium/exercise center, a large auditorium, an impressive museum, and multiple exhibits, tributes, and memorials dedicated to the conservation of our national lands and the men and women and agencies that protect and preserve them. 

Out from the central campus, miles of woodlands, wetlands, riverfront areas, and sunny pastures (all cross-crossed by miles of trails) surround the facility (my Pebble data reports that I hiked 32.5 miles while at the workshop). The only thing that the campus lacked was a swimming pool and a jacuzzi, but you could always go swimming in the Potomac River if you wished. Just watch out for the local wildlife.

What can I say about the training/classes/excursions provided and hosted by the ATC/TTEC? A visit on Monday to Harper’s Ferry was definitely a highlight; seeing the official ATC headquarters, the midpoint of the Trail, and the waystation (where we met a number of thru-hikers). We did a poetry-clue quest which took us to a number of historic spots in the town (I hadn’t been to Harper’s Ferry since I was a kid, so this was most enjoyable).

Instructional time at the workshop covered practically everything about the AT; its history, the major figures involved in its establishment, expansion, and maintenance, problems facing the AT from encroaching development to overcrowding/behavioral issues stemming from its increasing popularity. We discussed myriad applications for bringing The Trail (and environmental issues in general) to the classroom. On Wednesday and Thursday, we split into different groups; I participated in the Citizen Science in the Classroom group. We did a number of Nature Hikes looking for Fibonacci sequences in plant and mineral structures, sound and smell explorations, multiple journaling/sketching, and an extensive look into the problems caused by invasive species. I learned a lot, and thought about a number of things from new perspectives (I still never found out exactly what this was that I stumbled onto on one of the outlying trails).

Of course, the greatest thing about the conference was reconnecting with the members of the Southern Cohort from our spring meeting at the Hike-Inn, and finally meeting the rest of the TTEC cohorts from the rest of the country. The only negative thing I have to say at all about the workshop at the NCTC this summer was that it came to an end; five days was far too short a time to spend with all of these wonderful and energetic people, even if a lot of them cannot pronounce “Appalachian” correctly (APP-UH-LATCH-UHN). I enjoyed hearing about all the different locales and situations that our people taught and worked in, from large urban traditional high schools, to small, very experimental K-8 schools. I suppose that this is the true indicator of the validity and relevance of the TTEC program; no matter the place and circumstances, we all had something to contribute to the group, and we all brought away new thoughts and visions to take back to our communities.

Thank You All For This Experience

Friday, December 4, 2015

Habitat Heroes

David Adamiak
Urbana Middle School
Ijamsville MD
TTEC - Mid Atlantic Cohort
(Please note this blog is posted out of order--click here to read the follow-up!)

Urbana Middle is getting started with its Habitat Hero Club!  The map is up! I’m going to use it to get students to begin thinking about the trail.  I plan to put out stickers and yarn so students may post where they have been on the trail.  I thought that this may peak their interest. It’s laminated so it won’t hurt this beautiful map. wall map1.jpg
I came up with “GET ON IT”  jingle.  I think I will give the ATC permission to use it, so I won’t charge them a royalty. ;-)
wall map 2.jpg
My next posting  will show student input. - Dave Adamiak, UMS - Ijamsville, MD

Thursday, December 3, 2015

School to School, Garden to Garden

Katy Trietsch and Corinne Peace
Len Foote Hike Inn
Outdoor School
Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia

The recent popular interest in bringing children outside has brought with it the desire to create learning gardens. A sanctuary for students to learn life lessons – responsibility, care, and receive nourishment – in the outdoor classroom. The conclusion of the TTEC training in West Virginia created an atmosphere of community along the AT.  We connected all of our schools through the AT and through our passion for students learning in the outdoors. Nature has a way of bringing people together but it is also a way for migrating animals and insects to travel.
Monarch on Goldenrod, Max Patch, Nov.19
The AT is known as the “green tunnel” mainly because of how much of the trail is covered by trees and plants. This biodiversity creates a wildlife or green corridor that allows animals a buffer zone of wilderness because of the National Trail System Act of 1968. The Act protected the trails to preserve them for future recreational use and in doing so protected the wildlife of the AT. A flyway is not as commonly known as a wildlife corridor. Most hikers will look down at their feet so as to not trip on a root or rock than look up above them. Flyway’s are critical for migrating birds and insects – specifically that of the Monarch butterfly.
Recently, The Hike Inn has entered into the Monarchs Across Georgia Pollinator Habitat Grant. Writing the grant was a great tool and process for organizing our garden planning.  Monarchs Across Georgia offers resources and educational opportunities for schools and private gardens to become a part of the Monarch's migration path. Like stepping stones across a river, these gardens offer a safe refuge across urban landscapes. If each school along the AT planted a pollinator garden, the Monarchs could travel from school to school and garden to garden, what a beautiful trip! The Hike Inn is hoping to be a stop for the Monarchs as Eastern Monarchs migrate over the Appalachian Mountains. By having a pollinator garden one can look at the connection everything has to one another, educate students on our responsibility to the earth and connect the AT as a wildlife corridor and the Atlantic flyway.
Monarch Mountain Stop Garden Plan
We hope you will consider creating a pollinator habitat at your school linking our TTEC spirit up and down the east coast! Let us know if you have a pollinator garden at your school or if you plan on creating one. We would love to hear from you and help as a learning resource center to you and the butterflies!
Email us at staff@hike-inn.com ATTN: Katy and Corinne.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Leave No Trace

Kim Stetser
Seven Generations Charter School
Emmaus, PA
2015 TTEC Cohort

The Trail to Every Classroom program started off with a bang! When we finished our first workshop of the Mid-Atlantic Region’s 2015 cohort, I was bursting with motivation and anticipation for this fantastic opportunity. While I loved everything we experienced in May, I was most inspired by the principles of Leave No Trace. I work at a school built on a foundation of environmental stewardship, sustainability, and mindfulness, yet we don’t follow these practices as a group. I remember listening to and participating in Marian’s presentation and being shocked at all that was missing from Seven Gen. We needed Leave No Trace, and I knew I could bring it back home.

I spent much of the time that weekend developing a plan that mirrored the structure of “The First Six Weeks of School” by Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete, which we use to direct our teaching at the beginning of each year. My plan was to introduce the seven principles of Leave No Trace across four weeks, in short 15-30 minute lessons and experiences. I thought it would be viable for busy teachers, engaging for students, and useful in building a foundation that could be built upon throughout the year. My thought was to pilot this plan with my class this year, and then offer it to the whole school next year.

So far, it is going very well. My TTEC partners from Seven Gen jumped on board and worked with me to develop the plan further. We’ve also set up our own personal service learning component by offering professional development at school to help other educators become comfortable with these principles and hopefully interesting in implementing them in their own classrooms. My students loved participating in the various Leave No Trace activities and sharing their knowledge with the whole school at an All School Morning Meeting. Now we get to apply this knowledge to the trail!

Excited for the AT!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Hiking With Young Students

Rebecca King
Christiansburg Elementary School, Virginia

This September, my fellow teacher Colleen and I were able to put our TTEC training into practice by taking our 1st and 3rd grade students out on the trails. For many, if not most, of our students, it was their first ever hiking experience – even though they have grown up surrounded by mountains and outdoor opportunities. Overall, it was an outstanding success.

We were helped by Kathryn Herndon from ATC as well as Steph and Andy, two Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers who engaged the students in many activities related to responsible hiking at the Falls Ridge Nature Preserve in Virginia. Steph and Andy were in the area as part of a week of events surrounding McAfee Knob's designation as a 2015 Leave No Trace Hot Spot. I highly encourage all other TTEC teachers to take advantage of these partnership opportunities whenever they arise. Having Kathryn and the Leave No Trace crew helped motivate me to actually make this happen.

Here’s what I did, and what you can do too: 

1) Pick a time and a place – and make sure you scout ahead of time! How long will the hike take students? Is it feasible for all ability levels? For me, this was as easy as googling nearby hikes and then spending a Saturday checking them out.
2) Get approval from your school. I needed to email details to my principal and to our transportation department to set up the bus ride to and from school. Fortunately, my principal was very supportive. If yours it not, there is research you can use as backup.

3) Create and send home permission slips to families. There are many permission slip templates online, or sometimes schools or districts have standard templates. We did not experience any hesitation from parents and every permission slip came back signed.

4) Prepare students ahead of time through pre-flection and talking through logistics of what they need to bring, wear, etc. The day of, don’t forget your hiking basics, and have fun!

Once you commit to making it happen, all it takes it wading through the details.

I hope that our experience inspires other elementary school teachers that taking kids out on the trail is less daunting than you might think. Our kids had a great time. There were no injuries, just good memories and many, many expanded worldviews.

North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald