Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Resource Education Curriculum

Our country’s first National Park is home to the Yellowstone’s Youth Conservation Corps (YELL-YCC), a residential youth employment program founded on service learning concepts implemented through stewardship projects. Education is an integrated into all projects, through the Resource Education Curriculum (REC). This curriculum consists of 17 one-hour lessons developed to enhance the YELL-YCC experience.
Check it out here:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Let's Get Kids Wild About Nature!

Post by Tawnya Finney
 “The woods were my Ritalin. Nature calmed me, focused me, and yet excited my senses.” ~Richard Louv

“Mrs. Finney, are we going outside today?”  This is typically the question that is asked by my Appalachian Trail Club students as they walk into my room on club days.  Most days the answer is yes.  Many times, I have a learning activity in place, be it LNT activities, collaboration with Ms. Hade’s high school students, or engaging the five senses.  Students learn some new piece of information about nature and hopefully apply it and make it meaningful to their life.

There are some days, though, it is great to have the students enjoying and connecting to nature without the confines of a “formal lesson”.  They enjoy getting out, breathing fresh air, and running.  The American Academy of Pediatrics states that Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health.” While the club is only 45 minutes, I feel like there’s been an element of good health added to my students’ lives on those days. 

I have found that my students want to be outside, despite the weather.  If it’s a beautiful, sunny day, we can certainly say that it was enjoyable.  However, it can be cold and dreary, and students are still enjoying themselves outside.  Students also want to be “doing.”  Another question that usually follows the inquiry of outside, is the question of “What are we doing today?”  They find enjoyment in looking for different leaves and identifying them.  They get excited about looking for different colors and shapes in nature.  They get really inquisitive if we find a different bug (like the wheelbug). 

There have been occasions where I’ve had a meeting in my classroom after we’ve been outside for clubs.  My co-workers often state that it smells “gamey” in my room on those days.  My reply is that it smells of kids enjoying the outdoors and nature. 
I spent most of my free time as a child outside.  I loved the outdoors, even if it was reading a book in a lawn chair.  My love for the outdoors guided many decisions growing up…who I married, hobbies, volunteer time.  If we are to encourage a new generation to volunteer in their communities and to care for their environment, we must get them outside and get them active!  A study by Nancy M. Wells and Kristi S. Lekies (2006) found “The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in ‘wild nature activities’ before the age of 11.”  While most of my Appalachian Trail Club students are over the age of 11, I’ve found that there is still a vivid interest in the outdoors and “wild nature activities.”  For their health and for the health of the environment, let’s do everything that we can to get kids out and get kids wild about nature!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Our Classroom Defined

by Tawnya Finney, TTEC Alumni

“The Trail to Every Classroom” coined TTEC was launched in 2006 as an initiative to connect teachers and students to placed-based service learning on the Appalachian Trail.  I participated in the TTEC program in 2008 and recently participated in TTECwork this past summer.  These classes and workshops have been a valuable contribution to activities and strategies that I use in my classroom and with my Appalachian Trail Club at school.  However, I believe that as we utilize the lessons and activities that TTEC provides to us, we need to periodically reassess our definition of “classroom.” 

I am sure that many teachers have experienced newly defined terms of classrooms over the past several years.  With the evolution of our physical classrooms and the expectations for our classrooms, I have had to be flexible with my approach to sharing the Appalachian Trail with my students.  This brings me to the questions “What is my classroom?”  “Is it the space within the four walls of my school?”  When I search for the definition of “classroom” on the web, I turn up several results.  Merriam-Webster defines classroom as “a room where classes are taught in a school, college, or university.” One of the definitions of states that a classroom is “any place where one learns or gains experience.”

This past year has been a flurry of activity in my local town of Waynesboro, PA.  We were officially designated as an Appalachian Trail Community in April.  With that designation came the responsibility and commitment to promote the Trail and educate our community.  Since the official designation our steering committee (made up of community members, business members, municipal employees, PATC members, and teachers) has had a busy year. Our biggest focus this year has been a presence at many local festivals.  We have our 15’ long map of the Appalachian Trail (provided by TTEC) that we display, as well as brochures, and coloring pages and AT tattoos for children.

While at these festivals, I have become increasingly aware that my classroom is not just the four walls in my school building.  My classroom is also my community.  As we speak with visitors, we get many questions about the Appalachian Trail including “How do I know that I’m on the Trail?”  Wow!  It really does get that basic.  Many people in our local communities haven’t hiked on the Appalachian Trail, don’t realize that it is a National Park, and are timid about getting out on the Trail on their own.  People won’t care if they don’t know or don’t experience.

I propose that not only do we need to connect the Trail to our classrooms in school but also to our communal classroom:  offer a monthly hike; build a Facebook page and invite your community to “like” it; set up a small table at your local town festivals; ask your local library to host an Appalachian Trail talk night.  When people become connected to the Trail, it’s amazing the stories that you hear and the excitement that is generated.  When people become excited about the Trail, they also become passionate.  The knowledge and passion that is generated from community activities will be what protects our Trail and what we teach our young students for years to come.  When defining my classroom,  I believe that I must go back to the definition of “any place where one learns or gains experience.”  Students of all ages should be able to learn and gain experience when it comes to the Appalachian Trail classroom and all of its resources.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

TTECwork: Building Your TTEC Community Network workshop July 21-23, 2014

Excerpt from an upcoming A.T. Journeys article by Kathy Seiler

Ranger Betty Gatewood, a TTEC alum, PATC volunteer, and co-Chair of the TTEC Advisory Council, welcomes the group to Shenandoah National Park

The TTEC-work: Building Your Trail to Every Classroom Community Network workshop was held July 21 to 23 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia. This focused and action-packed workshop covered a wealth of Trail-related topics. Projects for both community and student involvement, strategies for building awareness and education, and methods to align group activities with community, state, and national partnerships were explored.

Teacher Michael Smith-Foot of Blairsville, GA putting together the puzzle!
TTEC alumni were invited to apply for the program with the team concept in mind, which is to bring a TTEC alumnus, a "new" teacher not yet trained in TTEC, and a community member or local Trail club representative together. Bringing together different backgrounds of experience and points of reference creates stronger possibilities for networking back in home areas, and strengthens Trail ties for students and communities alike.

Beginning a quest in the A.T. Community of Front Royal, VA.
This new model of TTEC as a network focused on specific goals and ideas, with built-in time for teams to work together and make an action plan for their community. Brainstorming sessions to generate ideas, share obstacles, and suggest possible solutions covered many situations. Teachers and community members from Dalton Massachusetts, Harlem Valley New York, Waynesboro Pennsylvania, Franklin North Carolina, and Blairsville Georgia kept busy from morning until mid-evening after-dinner sessions.

The group also tested a new interactive board game (Thru-Hike: The Appalachian Trail Game; currently on Kickstarter) and gave feedback to its creators, participated in a Quest in Front Royal, and hiked part of the A.T. in Shenandoah National Park, collecting data for the Trail-wide American chestnut MEGA Transect along the way as an example of citizen science on the A.T. Each team member also received a full set of hiking maps for their state.
Shenandoah National Park A.T. marker

The Georgia team shared how their TTEC activities are integrated into their middle school. Sylvia Garner uses the Trail as a year-long theme for art activities. During the unit on Georgia O'Keefe's style, Appalachian flowers are used as subjects for students' art creations. Bob Williams showed photos of their 6th-8th grade students hiking the Trail at various sections near Blood Mountain, and utilizing outdoor spaces as living classrooms. Michael Smith-Foot voiced his passion for continuing this mammoth but rewarding challenge of "No Child Left Inside" for their students.

The Waynesboro team set a goal of creating a Quest with student involvement throughout the upcoming year. This project, a type of treasure hunt/scavenger hunt using facts and history in a rhyming format, will invite the curious to explore the town in a fun way. Having it available and ready to use by next summer's first area "Appalachian Trail Festival" is the goal. (Check out the Facebook page for "The Greater Waynesboro, Pennsylvania Appalachian Trail Community" for updates.)
Historic chimney on the A.T.

Kristina Moe, a librarian from Franklin North Carolina, seemed to speak from the community-at-large group when summarizing her insights into sharing student learning project ideas with teachers, and how both groups can be helpful for each other. The key is awareness − and time to coordinate goals, strategies, outcomes, and evaluations. This TTEC-work workshop afforded such an opportunity.

Turks Cap Lily
Dalton, Massachusetts teacher Meg Donovan remarked that this was her first professional development conference that was multi-state, multi-subject, and sponsored by multiple organizations. She was pleased to find herself energized and excited about taking home more than just a binder of notes.

Enjoying the view on Mary's Rock

Working together with teachers of various grades and subjects definitely spans beyond the usual possibilities.

Attendees enjoyed blackberry ice cream milkshakes at Elkwallow Wayside, four black bear sightings, and the valley view from Mary's Rock while in Shenandoah National Park. On campus, pockets of free time afforded walks to see the endangered animals bred at SCBI, such as maned wolves, red-headed cranes, cloud leopards, and Clint, the Marianas crow. As each day passed, the group evolved from sitting with "who you came with" to new cross-Trail acquaintances, demonstrating the program’s early success through meaningful human connections. As part of the concluding ceremony for participation certificates, the group sang Tora Huntingdon's original "The Appalachian Trail Song" written by her second grade class in Dalton.
Tawnya Finney with a blackberry milkshake!
 Speaking not only for myself but for the entire group − kudos to the fantastic team of TTECwork facilitators: Delia Clark, Facilitator from Woodstock Vermont; Rita Hennessy, Assistant Superintendent of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Karen Lutz, Regional Director of ATC’s Mid-Atlantic Region, Kathryn Herndon, of the ATC’s Southwest and Central Viriginia Regional Office, and Betty Gatewood, Shenandoah National Park naturalist/interpreter, and her husband, Mark. Other speakers included Sonja Carlborg from Front Royal, Bonnie Harvey of Portland State University, Dick Hostelley of the Potomac A.T. Club, Marlene Jefferson from Loudon County Virginia, and Pete Irvine of George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

One of FOUR bears spotted in the Park,

Feedback from the entire group, from leaders to participants, shows positive reactions. Nurturing those willing to use their time, energy, and student/parent/community ties with expertise from Trail professionals and the supporting maintenance clubs will help to keep the Trail in good stead for its future.

Trying out a "Hip Pocket Activity"

Getting folks out on the Trail of all ages (it’s always amazing to find locals who know it’s there, but don’t use it) is the main goal. After all, as the African environmentalist, Baba Dioum, remarked in 1968: “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” Teaching what the wonders of the Trail can reveal to those who pass over it, and what the Trail needs for its conservation, is why we band together.

The TTECwork 2014 cohort at Mary's Rock!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Report Recommends Giving Teachers Time for Professional Development

May 16, 2014 Reposted from The Joyce Foundation

New Joyce-supported report highlights 17 high-performing expanded-time schools
As demands on teachers increase, schools across the country are expanding their calendars to give teachers more time to collaborate and build new skills. This emphasis on teacher time is particularly important as states implement the more rigorous Common Core State Standards, new teacher evaluation systems, and strategies to turn around persistently low-performing schools.
“Teachers at the schools we studied have twice as much time as teachers in schools with traditional schedules to spend on activities that are crucial to strengthening teaching and improving student achievement,” Jennifer Davis, National Center on Time & Learning co-founder and president, said.“Teachers need more time to develop new teaching approaches and individualize their instruction. This is particularly important for teachers working in high-poverty schools.”
NCTL’s new report on the subject, which was supported by the Joyce Foundation, released May 14, 2014 at an event in Washington, D.C. co-hosted by Teach Plus. Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education at the White House Domestic Policy Council, was a featured speaker at the event.
Time for Teachers: Leveraging Time to Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers examines 17 high-performing and rapidly-improving schools around the country that have taken advantage of expanded school schedules to provide students with more time for engaging academic and enrichment classes and teachers with more time to collaborate with colleagues, analyze student data, create new lesson plans, and develop new skills. On average, U.S. teachers spend approximately 80 percent of their time on instruction, while the international average for countries reporting data to the OECD is 67 percent. Meanwhile, teachers in the schools featured in Time for Teachers spend 60 percent of their expanded school schedule on direct instruction with 40 percent of their time on collaboration, coaching, one-on-one support, and other activities.
Across the 17 schools it examined, Time for Teachers identified six effective practices that have led to teacher and school success. The six practices are:
  • Collaborative lesson planningNearly all of the featured schools provide structured opportunities for teachers – who have varying and often complementary skills – to work together in teams to plan lessons, thereby strengthening each lesson’s quality and rigor.
  • Embedded professional development. Through workshops and professional learning communities, teachers at the featured schools spend substantial time with colleagues in active, peer-to-peer learning.
  • Summer trainingSeven of the 17 schools convene their faculty for two to three weeks every summer before the school year begins for intensive planning and professional development, including to build a common understanding of their school’s vision and to learn new tools and systems.
  • Data analysisThrough the systematic collection and analysis of data on student performance, teachers at the featured schools identify gaps in students’ learning and create action plans to address those gaps.
  • Individualized coachingMany of the schools in the report pair teachers with instructional coaches who provide ongoing development, including reviewing lesson plans, observing classroom instruction, and meeting to offer feedback and recommendations.
  • Peer observationMany of the schools in the report also create opportunities for teachers to observe their peers. These non-evaluative observations help both the observer and the observed to identify ways to improve instruction.
The report also includes a series of recommendations for practitioners interested in implementing the strategies outlined in the report, along with recommendations for policymakers looking to support teacher excellence. Three of the recommendations for policymakers include:
  • Advance policies that enable schools to implement an expanded school schedule that offers teachers more time for professional learning.
  • Incentivize and fund high-quality, school-embedded professional learning communities.
  • Support job-embedded professional development as part of the training for the Common Core.
Reposted from:

Friday, July 11, 2014

Small Grant Opportunity

Kids In Need Teacher Grants Help Teachers Realize Their Dreams

Kids In Need Teacher Grants provide preK-12 educators with funding to provide innovative learning opportunities for their students. The Kids In Need Foundation helps to engage students in the learning process by supporting our most creative and important educational resource — our nation's teachers. Grant applications are available online each year from July 15 until September 30.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Reading Hike Race!

In Hot Springs, NC, Fourth graders who read 2,175 minutes hiked a mile for each minute read.  The reading/ hiking race went approximately 4 months, and these are the winners! Students get really excited about reading AND the Appalachian Trail on this fun project.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Garlic Mustard Galore with Undermountain Elementary's Trails to Every Classroom Students

We are lucky to have such an enthusiastic bunch of A Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) students within 5 miles of the Kellogg Conservation Center. Fourth grade teacher at Undermountain Elementary, Sue Garcia, recently joined the TTEC program, and is very excited to have this great outdoor resource so close to her students’ indoor classroom.

Her students have had the chance to take to the outdoor classroom of the Appalachian Trail, going on several naturalist and invasive plant identification hikes with ATC staff and Berkshire Appalachian Mountain Club/Berkshire A.T. Committee volunteers, and Great Barrington Trails partners.  They have had guest speakers talk about thru-hiking the A.T., and they learned about the Boundary and corridor protecting the Appalachian Trail.
On May 7th, Mrs. Garcia’s class came to the Kellogg Conservation Center (KCC) to work with us on an invasive plant removal project. Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is invading the trail near the KCC, especially on the East side of Route 41. The 13 students with their teachers and chaperones, listened attentively as ATC’s Northern Resource Management Coordinator, Marian Orlousky, explain and show what Garlic Mustard is, why it is non-native, why this time period in May is best to remove it (before it flowers and seeds), how to remove it, and how to dispose of it.

Marian Orlousky shows the students garlic mustard plants.
Working feverishly, the group started filling more bags than they thought, focusing on getting all the garlic mustard in each square of space they were working on close to the trail.   The guessing for the total weight of the bags kept growing. A section-hiker even walked by and thanked them for what they were doing, and the kids asked him what his trail name was. Pulling invasives can get tiring, so the work was broken up by a few Leave No Trace Trail Ethic lessons. How far is 100’ off the trail? Your disposable water bottle takes how long to decompose? These kids have it down. The very excited group predicted they would pull-up about 30 odd pounds of garlic mustard in their 3 hour timeframe. The group was joined by Steven Smith, the Mass A.T. Committee Natural Resources Coordinator, and Silvia Cassano, the Trail Management Assistant in Southern New England  based out of KCC.
Students guess how long certain items take to decompose
Trying out the weed wrench, used to pull out invasive Japanese Barberry. 

Busy at work
In total the 4th graders succeeded by ATC estimation (magical scales of experience) to have pulled up about 287± pounds of garlic mustard! They were very excited to be able to contribute the pounds they collected to the Garlic Mustard Challenge that The Stewardship Network out of Michigan hosts each year.

So many bags of garlic mustard!
We at the Kellogg Conservation Center /Appalachian Trail Conservancy look forward to working with Mrs. Garcia’s class and future classes again! Thank you to Steve Smith for helping to coordinate this day! We hope her students keep teaching what they know to the people in their lives. They already have become great stewards and are knowledgeable on so many topics involving hiking and the outdoors in the Berkshires! Three “Water Hydration Break Toasts” to Mrs. Garcia’s 4th Graders!

Other Resources:
-Read more about A Trail to Every Classroom
-Read Mrs. Garcia’s Blog Post on “Passing on the A.T. Bug” 
 -Another blog on speaking to Mrs. Garcia’s Class on Thru-Hiking the A.T.
-Great Invasive Plant Guide on how to ID and control invasives:  “A Guide to Invasive Plants in Massachusetts” 
-Quick Visual of Common Invasive Plants in Massachusetts by Mass Audubon
-Very Science-Minded article on Garlic Mustard from Harvard
-Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics Activities for Kids!

Mrs. Garcia's Garlic Mustard Pulling Team

And one for fun...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Class Helps Improve Appalachian Trail Safety

Reposted from 
Fourth grade teacher Cathy Harron leads her students down a portion of the Appalachian Trail in Front Royal. This year, Harron and her class worked to have caution signs installed at a trail crossing on a busy road in order to make the area safer for hikers. Katie Demeria/Daily 
Fourth graders from Ressie Jeffries Elementary School in Front Royal met hikers Douglas and Sabrina Wright, who also go by their trail names, Stakes and Cliffwalker. The students and their teacher, Cathy Harron, worked to improve the trail crossing the Wrights were visiting, adding caution signs so drivers would slow down. Katie Demeria/Daily
FRONT ROYAL -- Douglas and Sabrina Wright were not expecting to meet a fourth grade class when they reached the Appalachian Trail crossing on Remount Road. 
But the class worked all year for hikers just like them. The Wrights were on their way home to Massachusetts after starting the trail in Georgia, and met with the children responsible for having a "hikers crossing" sign installed on the busy highway intersecting the trail. 
Cathy Harron, their teacher at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, participated in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's Trail to Every Classroom program and was able to bring them to the crossing in order to see the results of their work. 
When Harron's students took a trip to the trail Thursday morning to see the signs, they were also able to see several hikers going through, heading across the road and avoiding traffic with the assistance of the signs. 
The Wrights were able to stick around and thank the students for all their work. 
Harron had her class write letters to local officials, such as Taryn Logan, Warren County's planning director. Through those efforts, the Virginia Department of Transportation installed the signs in order to increase safety at the crossing. 
Ten-year-old Kaelyn Owens said she enjoyed doing the work, and hopes to hike the trail herself someday. 
"It felt special that they actually listened," Owens said. Logan was also at the event, along with Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Murray and County Administrator Doug Stanley. 
"It's a great honor to walk the trail," Murray told the students. 
Thru-hiker Sonja Carlborg attended as well. She was able to speak to the class earlier in the year, and said the signs at the Remount Road crossing were much needed. 
"People go through on their way to work, whipping along and not thinking about hikers that might be out here," Carlborg said. 
Harron said she used the trail to teach her class about a variety of subjects, including social studies, science and math. She taught them about local governments especially, showing them how they can interact with town officials in order to achieve something, such as increasing safety. 
"They really responded well to it," she said. "They understand more about what it means to be a trail town," she said. 
Stanley said there are also plans in place to create more trails connecting the crossing with Front Royal. Right now, Carlborg pointed out, hikers have to hitchhike and walk along the busy road when they are trying to go into town and get supplies. 
Alyson Browett, chairman of the Front Royal/Warren County Appalachian Trail Community Committee, said she has seen many near-misses on the crossing. "It's a really dangerous road," she said. "Those crossing signs are vital to the safety of the hikers." 
She said teaching the students about the trail is a great all-around experience -- they can learn about the outdoors, nature and the importance of stewardship. 
"The trail is a magical place," she said. 
 Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

TTECwork - Join us this Summer!

TTECwork - A Leadership Seminar

Trail To Every Classroom: Building a Network of Partners
Experienced TTEC teachers have found that building a strong local network of partners, colleagues, and allies is critical to successful implementation of place-based service learning.  This summer we are offering an institute designed for this purpose. The TTECwork summer seminar will be held July 21-23 near the A.T. in Shenandoah National Park, based out of Front Royal, VA. Open to teams of three from any interested TTEC school districts, the institute offers a range of strong opportunities for bringing TTEC to the next level in your community.

Teams include:
- a TTEC alumni teacher
-   a teacher from the same school or school district who is interested in learning about the TTEC model-   a local A.T. Club member or a member of an A.T. Community Committee
TTECwork Focus
Core elements of the TTEC model, such as developing compelling academic projects focused on meaningful service and exploration of the A.T., building successful school-community partnerships, and strengthening buy-in among other faculty, school administrators, parents, Trail Club volunteers and community members. The institute will maximize both individual learning and each team’s practical accomplishment through interactive and collaborative learning sessions designed for full teams, as well as break-out sessions tailored specifically for veteran TTEC teachers, new TTEC teachers and community/club volunteers.
To support teachers, Trail maintaining clubs and Appalachian Trail Communities in building a strong local network of partners, colleagues, and allies to implement successful place-based service learning curriculum and projects.The quick lowdown (details in the application):
When: July 21st-23rd
Where: Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA 
Who: Teams of three should include 
1) a TTEC alumni teacher 
2) a teacher from the same school or school district who is interested in learning about the TTECmodel

3) a local A.T. Club member or a member of an A.T. Community Committee.

Click HERE for Application. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

TTEC in the Park!

Post by Betty Gatewood
TTEC Advisory Council Co Chair and Alumna from 2008

Since 2008 when I was in the TTEC cohort, my husband Mark (Flying McLeods Trail crew) and I have been doing Trailwork and Trail repair on the AT in Shenandoah National Park with several groups of local students.  Having students on the Trail is so important, and these students were gaining knowledge how to be good stewards of the Trail in the future by getting training in Trail construction and repair.

Mark and I have worked with the local governor's school students, a local high school honor society, a UVA service fraternity, and students of my Blue Ridge Community College hiking class.  Here's some of what we/they have done on the AT in Shenandoah National Park (SNP)

  • reconstructed the stone steps from Blackrocks Hut to the spring 
  • repaired and cleaned waterbars on Bear Den Mountain from Beagle Gap to the top of  Bear Den
  • assisted with the AT relocation trail construction on Little Calf Mountain
  • assisted with the AT relocation around a shelter in SNP and pulled Garlic mustard
  • assisted in Trail relocation research on Bear Den Mountain
  • repaired and reconstructed some waterbars on Hightop Mountain
In my work at Mary Baldwin College and as a ranger in Shenandoah NP, I've also worked with high school students to do flora, fauna AND American Chestnut transects. 

It is important work, and I look forward to continuing to share all I've learned from TTEC into the future! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Students on the A.T.!

Post by Jan Onan
TTEC Alumna and Carolina Mountain Club volunteer in North Carolina

It could not have been a more beautiful 2 days to experience backpacking on the AT.  Trailfest was taking place in Hot Springs and the Trail was abuzz with thru-hikers. I eagerly anticipated getting back on the AT having such recent memories of accomplishing the CMC 90/90 last Oct.  It was Friday afternoon, April 11, 2014, when my son, Jake, our trail dog, Sophie, and I waited at Tanyard Gap parking lot for the arrival of the group we volunteered to help chaperone. We knew little about this group.
One of the recent requests CMC received was from North Buncombe HS teacher, Michael Rowe.  He received an ATC License Plate grant to take his Earth Science Club on a backpacking trip to experience the AT and to do water quality testing along the way in creeks, ponds, and the French Broad River. Will Maney, a history teacher at NBHS and a 2013 AT thru-hiker, was a natural to be along as a chaperone. The kids were ready and excited about being on the Trail. One problem could have kept them from this planned trip. There were 13 students, 7 of whom were female.
The group needed a female chaperone. Thus, the request came to CMC.  When the request finally made it to my email, I looked at my calendar and saw that I was free and was excited that CMC could participate.  Having been a Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) participant in 2008, this fit perfectly with TTEC goals to get students on the AT.

Jake and I were taking in the mountain air when we saw what looked like a fleet of vehicles arriving at the parking lot. Out jumped 13 smiling students and 2 smiling teachers happy to finally be starting their adventure. Introductions were made, car shuttles worked out and the .7 mile hike to Mill Ridge camp site began. Along the way, we talked about the AT- from blazes to the 31 maintenance crews.  ATC extraordinaire, Julie Judkins, provided me with and AT trail trivia sheet, but the kids asked me the questions before I brought it up! The students learned how CMC members lead group hikes; trail breaks, sweeps and how not to get lost! This was the first time hiking for several of these 13 students, but you would have never known. I was amazed from the start at the abilities and positive attitudes of these HS students. 

Once at camp, I learned that much of their gear was gathered from what family or friends had about.  As the kids made camp, I heard laughing and saw high-fives shared when it was discovered that one student grabbed what she thought was a 2-man tent to share with a fellow classmate, only to discover it was a child size single tent! This presented no dilemma as the students quickly came to a solution by sharing what equipment each of them had. This was the first time hiking, let alone backpacking and camping, for several of these students.

After dinner, Frisbee, and hacky sac, I shared a Leave No Trace activity from PEAK (Promoting Environmental Awareness in Kids) packet given to us at the TTEC training. The HS kids had fun discovering how long common discarded objects take to decompose, then Jake went over the 7 Leave No Trace principles using hand gestures to help them remember. They were all great sports and all participated. ATC also provided us with Leave No Trace cards for each of the students.

We enjoyed each other around the campfire before  hitting the sleeping bags in our tents or hammocks. Saturday morning after breakfast, packing up and water testing, we headed out again towards Hot Springs.  These students can hike! Even with heavy loads, they kept a great pace and arrived at the river a lot sooner than expected. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this great group of students and would recommend other trail club members to connect with your local HS Environmental Science teachers and volunteer your skills.
Jan Onan, CMC

Here’s what some of the students had to say about being on the AT:

"I enjoyed the opportunity to apply textbook knowledge into the real world, which is something that is scarce in conventional education" -Julian
" Hiking through parts of the AT was an incredible experience in which I saw how the environment works in a beautiful, vivid way" -Lindsey
"The experience was a lot of fun. I enjoyed learning how the water filter worked, i also learned about LNT"-Stephanie
" I learned that there is more things happening to the French Broad River than I thought"-Mason
" I really enjoyed being outdoors with friends and just being outside of the classroom but still learning"-Taylor

Friday, February 14, 2014

Webinar Opportunities

Conquering Nature Deficit Disorder with Phenology, Wednesday, February 12th, at 7:30pm EST.

Long before Last Child in the Woods, biology teacher Larry Weber has been teaching his middle school students how to identify common local flora and fauna and  evidence of seasonal change (i.e. phenology). Larry will draw on his decades of experience to explain how to organize a course focused on phenology, what students look for each month of the school year and the benefits of this type of teaching.

Building a Culture of Resilience through EducationThursday, February 20th, 7pm EST

Children and youth witness and experience natural disasters in increasing numbers and intensity.  This webinar will explore the curriculum, learning and teaching implications of helping children and youth to become active agents in preventing, mitigating and better coping with natural disasters.  It will highlight practical ideas and examples of disaster risk reduction (DRR) education in school and community characterized by child/youth participation and leadership.  The webinar will also explore how environmental education can contribute to disaster risk reduction and vice-versa.  Participants will be invited to share their own practice and experience in empowering children and youth to help foster a resilient school and community.  Reserve your spot now:  (

Water Quality Monitoring in Outdoor EducationThursday, February 27th, 7:30pm EST

Water provides a rich source of learning opportunities. The webinar will explore water quality monitoring as an educational tool to engage students in learning about water and the local environment. Participants will be provided with practical information to integrate water quality monitoring into their own practice including how to set-up monitoring activities, managing risk, the monitoring process, helpful tools and resources, and how to make water quality monitoring a meaningful learning experience.   Reserve your spot now:  (

North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald