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

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