Friday, October 30, 2020

Ed-Ventures on the A.T.!

 Join the ATC on an amazing virtual A.T. Ed-Venture Series, created for young people but engaging for all ages. Starting in Georgia and traveling all the way north to Maine, each session is led by environmental educators providing exciting content across diverse disciplines that connect curriculum and students to the Appalachian Trail. These interactive sessions will be hosted live via Zoom, and then published to YouTube for access at any time. They will take place on the first and third Wednesdays of every month August 2020 through March 2021 at 4:00 pm.

Each session will have two instructors, typically one formal educator and one community, Trail club, or agency partner. These interactive live sessions will include approximately 45 minutes of lesson time and then allow participants to ask questions to the teachers about the content or more personally about their career paths. Content is variable based on the educator’s expertise, discipline, focus, and interest.

Through the Ed-Venture series, the ATC hopes to connect with and foster a lifelong love of learning and discovery, both on the A.T. and beyond. We are thrilled to create and co-host this series with educators and partners involved with the conservation of our public lands, providing engaging lessons for young learners. 

Visit to register for upcoming sessions and find links to recorded sessions that have already occurred. Like any good A.T. journey, there will be lots of exciting things to discover!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Deep Noticing

This is a chapter found in the 

School's Out(doors): Place-based Education (PBE) Responds to COVID-19 and Beyond

New Resource! School's Out(doors): Place-based Education Responds to COVID-19 and Beyond is designed for leaders who seek healthy learning spaces for students, as well as equity, social-emotional development, and mutually-beneficial relationships with local communities.

Power spots are a simple and profound way to get started.

Get outside and look around. This simple act has launched many great place-based education (PBE) projects. When Rob Hanson’s 6th graders get outside, they often head for their “power spot,” a natural location they selected for frequent visits to observe and reflect.

Some of the most powerful learning Rob has seen comes from students journaling about the prompt “What  Nature Teaches Me.” [14] Rob’s student Kyler recently observed: “Grass teaches me to be flexible... when the wind hits grass it goes with the flow. The grass is open to new ideas and can adapt to new climates. I should adapt to quarantine.”

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A Math Trail to Every Classroom By Jan Cohen, Founder, UrbanMathTrails

A math trail through nature is a simple concept: use math to enhance student exploration, communication, understanding and appreciation of the spatial forms, patterns and quantitative underpinnings of the natural world. When students discover the connections between math and nature through observational learning, discovery and application, they embrace concepts and principles and retain knowledge and to a degree not achievable through traditional textbook-classroom-centered education.

No tools are needed, other than perhaps a tape measure, so students may roam freely, observe, consider, reason, and internalize a new appreciation of the math embedded in their natural environment. A myriad of topics may be explored: measurement, sorting and classifying, scale, symmetry, geometry, data and statistics, probability, algebra, etc., depending upon age, interest, season or geography.  Any natural habitat is suitable.

Find a location of natural interest and variety.  Walk, observe and consider the environment:
·         compare shapes, patterns and sizes;
·         make estimates and measure degrees, heights, circumferences, perimeters, areas, volumes, slopes and distances using standard and non-standard measurements; compare estimates to actual measurements;
·         evaluate ratios and proportion;
·         collect data, analyze statistically and assess probabilities; and,
·         devise scientific methods, make conjectures, test hypotheses.

Nature obeys rules, which students explore and express on a math trail, and nature brims with opportunities for fascinating mathematical investigations. The following are just a few examples to stimulate your thinking and, hopefully, inspire your planning of a math trail along the AT.

One important step when learning how to identify trees and plants is understanding phyllotaxy, or the arrangement of leaves around the stem. There are three basic types of leaf arrangements: alternate, opposite, and whorled. As you walk along the trail, notice the leaf arrangements on plants and keep a tally. What is the most common arrangement?

 Streams and ravines are part of the diversity and beauty of nature. This rustic foot bridge includes many geometric details. Find several sets of parallel lines. Estimate the angles of the posts. Estimate the length, width and height of the bridge. How many seasons do you think were observed to determine the height and span requirements of this stream crossing?

This tree fell down after a recent storm. Did you know you can estimate a tree’s age by measuring its trunk? Find a felled tree and measure its circumference. Given the circumference of trees grow at about 12 to 34/ inch per year, how old was this tree when it fell?

Foresters use diameter at breast height, or DBH, as the standard for measuring trees. Measure the circumference of a tree at breast height, 4.5 feet above the ground. Find the diameter (divide circumference by pi) and multiply it by the tree’s growth factor to determine its approximate age.  Growth factor varies by species from about 2 to 7, but we can use 4 as an average of many species.  How old is the tree?  Keep a tally today.

A single frond of a fern resembles the whole fern, in miniature. This is called self-similarity. How many different types of ferns can you find? What other examples of self-similar structures in nature do you see along the trail?

A fractal is a term to describe self-similarity. It is a geometric pattern that repeats itself at different scales in a specimen.  What other examples of fractal geometry do see along the trail? Look at some trees and bushes and explain their fractal patterns.

Patterns prevail throughout the plant kingdom. Flowering plants exhibit numerical patterns. Count the petals on several flowers. Do the numbers adhere to the Fibonacci Sequence, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8…? What are the next two numbers in this sequence? As you walk along the trail, how many flowers can you find that conform to this sequence? Look for pinecones. They are a striking example of the Fibonacci sequence. Their scales are arranged in two intertwined spirals. Count the numbers in each direction. Does the pattern conform to the sequence?
Most plants exhibit some type of symmetry. Examine the symmetrical patterns of plant leaves along the trail. What type of symmetry do you observe in each leaf? Why do you think symmetry is so prominent in the natural world? What other examples of symmetry can you identify?

Daisies have rotational symmetry. As you rotate them in a circle, they always look the same. Since the typical number of petals on a daisy is 42, it has what’s called 42-fold rotational symmetry. Find daisies, dahlias or sunflowers and count the petals. This will tell you the number of distinct orientations in which they look the same. What other flowers do you see that have rotational symmetry?

Orchids are glorious examples of flowers that nearly all have bilateral symmetry. What is bilateral symmetry? Why is it also called mirror symmetry? What other examples of bilateral symmetry can you find along the trail?

See any spider webs? They create near-perfect circular webs that have near-equal-distanced radial supports coming out of the middle. How many radial supports do you count in the spider web? Estimate the interior angle formed between the radials?

Is it a sunny day? If so, you can estimate the height of a tree using its shadow. First, measure your shadow then measure your height. Measure the tree's shadow. Set up a proportion:

See any dried mud patches? Describe the crack pattern. Do you see any polygons? Is the cracking pattern uniform? Do you see any right angles? Straight angles? Acute angles? Any concave shapes? What other geometric observations can you make?

Math trails are a natural fit and essential element of outdoor education, providing opportunities to students to discover explanations of nature’s patterns and underlying logic, shape, quantity and arrangement. Regardless of age or skill level, math trails get students out of the classroom and into the great outdoors to help them develop mathematical and environmental literacy while having fun. They enable children to engage with mathematical experiences in the real world, gaining first-hand knowledge of how math can be used to interpret the world in which we live.

Jan Cohen is the founder of UrbanMathTrails, an education consulting firm that serves various institutions in the application of math in new contexts. Drawing upon an extensive background in math education, finance and architecture, and a passion for the outdoors and the arts, UrbanMathTrail programs inspire children to discover math in the environment around them, exciting their mathematical imagination and electrify their mathematical senses. See for additional ideas and information.

Monday, October 22, 2018

National Trails Teaching Guide!

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Trail System Act, the Bureau of Land Management has created a teaching guide about National Scenic and Historic Trails.

Although these three lessons were designed with middle school in mind, they can also be used with upper elementary and high school students. Common core curriculum connections include english/language arts and social studies.

Check out the teaching guide, and be sure to let us know if you put it to use!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Student Mural

By Perry County Times
By Jim T. Ryan
Staff Writer
Driving Route 850 from Marysville to Shermans Dale will take you past a crossing for the Appalachian Trail (AT) on the footpath's meandering course through Perry County.
There, the white blazes mark the AT's path through fields and patches of trees, and a small parking area for hikers to step off from in Rye Twp.
A group of Susquenita Middle School students have made that parking area a little brighter with a bottle cap mosaic depicting a rising sun, mountains, trees and the AT symbol. 
"I've wanted to do a bottle cap mural for a long time and this seemed perfect," said Abby Fisher, a Susquenita art teacher who designed the mosaic and helped students put it together.
Six students in the life skills class, together with about 10 other middle school students and their teachers spent much of last school year collecting, sorting and arranging the various colored caps and lids from sodas, sports drinks, and coffee cans.
There were upwards of 30 students working on the project at various times
The project was more than just taking trash and turning it into a picture, the teachers said. It helped all the students in a wide variety of academic and social skills.
"The art was secondary to the social aspect of this for the students," Fisher said.
Jeff Henry, the life skills teacher, said it really helped his students work on cooperation and communication skills. 
Paul Marth, a Susquenita social studies teacher involved with the project, said working on an art project that would be featured at an AT trailhead fit in with his curriculum too. The trail runs close to the Susquenita campus in Duncannon and is an integral part of local and U.S. history.
"Our kids drive by it every day," he said.
Marth also is an avid hiker and was in contact with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Mountain Club of Maryland, a volunteer group that helps maintain part of the trail in Perry County. They wanted to do something creative with the back side of the message board, Marth said.
So he said, yes, the middle school could help.
The teachers paid for the hardware materials and they asked for donated bottle caps. The students sorted them, painted the board and used screws to fasten the approximately 1,000 caps to the board.
"They don't get to use power tools often, so that was really cool for them," Henry said.
The students took a class trip with their teachers on Sept. 29 to visit their art, now installed at the parking area along Route 850. And they confirmed their teacher's assessment: power tools -- awesome.
The best part was "sorting out the colors and using the drills," said student Austin Ciccocioppo.
"My favorite was the colors," student Delorean Michael said.
"Using the drills," student Codie Nelson said, laughing, when asked about his favorite part of the project.
The project is precisely what trail groups were looking for to spruce up the message kiosk at the parking area.
"It's sweet to look over my shoulder and see all that color while I'm mowing the parking area," said Christy Hoover of Carlisle.
Hoover is a volunteer with the Mountain Club of Maryland who has been helping to maintain the trail and parking area for the past 10 years.
"One of our goals is to get kids engaged with the trail and this is a great way to do that," said Ryan Seltzer, the corridor stewardship program manager with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Boiling Springs.
The high visibility of the mural will be a welcome sight to hikers coming off the AT, he said.
A plaque is being made that will be attached to the kiosk and identify the mural as a project of the Susquenita Middle School students.
Everyone -- most importantly, the students -- will take something away from the project, teachers said.
"The kids are going to know it'll be there for a while," Fisher said, "and they can take pride that they were involved."
Jim T. Ryan can be reached via e-mail at

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Great resources from Nancy Reeder!

Nancy Reeder of Franklin, NC has developed a fantastic set of curriculum-based activities with an Appalachian Trail theme! Check them out here:

You can find this link anytime, and lots of other good stuff, under "Resource Links" on the right side of this blog.

From Nancy's Introduction to her project:

These activities with answer keys have been prepared so they are ready for implementation in your classroom at any time. They are divided into five subjects: Mathematics, History, Geography, Science, and Language.

The section from Springer Mountain, GA to Damascus, VA is emphasized, although some activities involve other parts of the trail. Class as well as research type lesson ideas are included to complement your general outdoor curriculum. They are intended to broaden your students’ knowledge of the Appalachian Trail.

Everything you need to complete the activity is included. Some of them are intended to be copied for each student, and some are intended to be put on your smart board, and discussed with your entire class, or be given to individuals to read and research.

There are various levels of activities geared for intermediate grade students as well as middle school students.

You can find the link to these resources anytime, and lots of other good stuff, under "Resource Links" on the right side of this blog.

Friday, May 4, 2018

FFEC Alumni Brings Students Back to Trail!

North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald