Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hike Inn

Becky Woody
Long Cane Middle School, LaGrange GA
TTEC 2015 Cohort

The TTEC trip to the Hike Inn was mental­ly and physically exhausting. I did not ­realize stress of daily life could take ­a toll on my health as much as it did.

However, listening to the birds,  looking at the flora, and feeling the wind has­ a way of rejuvenating a person. I particularly likes the Leave No Trace ­activity we did on the trail and the sup­port that I had from all of the TTEC participants. Julie Judkins was a great fac­ilitator. It is obvious she believes in ­and enjoys the TTEC PROGRAM. Since the TTEC program to the Hike Inn, ­I had the opportunity to have a workshop­ for 12 teachers. They had they opportunity  to experience how valuable the outd­oors is for teaching and learning.

My next goal is to my science teachers involved in the outdoors and then apply f­or the TTEC grant next year. It is easy ­to promote something you believe in doing.

Grayson Highlands

Jackie Simmons
Itinerant Teacher Preschool –High School
Hearing Impaired Students
Atlantic Beach, North Carolina
TTEC 2015 Cohort

That’s me on the left and my friend, Elizabeth on the right

Grayson Highlands
I am super excited to be part of program where I can pair my passion with a purpose. I have a great love of almost any outdoor activity, but my real passion is hiking, whether it be a day hike or a backpacking trip. I have hiked in France, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Dominica, The Tetons and Yellowstone. And…yes, several sections of the Appalchian Trail where I have had such memorable adventures which are directly connected to the culture and people of the trail. It is a community of very diverse people, those who are seeking, in transition, and those who are simply using their passion to grow and redefine themselves.

I am excited to hopefully partner with my friend Elizabeth, who has successfully integrated a yoga club as an extra curricular in one of our local high schools. How great would it be to offer Yoga Hiking alongside educating high school students in hiking principles, the Appalachian Trail and the opportunity to experience hiking. I look forward to brainstorming and planning at the summer conference as a way to bring the Appalachian Trail to our beautiful coastal community.

Students Hike High Heights for Healthy Habits

Donna McCusker 
Jessica Williams
Janet Steinart (2008 TTEC Cohort & current TTEC Advisory Council Member)
Whitefield School
Whitefield, NH
2015 TTEC Cohort

The White Mountains is a resource that provides more than just summer hiking. Whitefield School teachers Donna McCusker and Jessica Williams attended a weeklong summer workshop in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, learning to design lessons that take students out of the classroom and into the mountains. The workshop, entitled Trail to Every Classroom, provides instruction on using the environment to fulfill core curriculum standards while engaging students in learning that is relevant and real. While at the workshop, McCusker and Williams created plans to revitalize the trail on the school grounds, designed an outdoor classroom that they hope to build onsite, and wrote lesson plans that marry the outdoors with core standards. 

“We hope to revitalize the school trail so that teachers and students may use it as an outdoor resource,” explained McCusker. About 10 years ago, the school trail was constructed in a school and community effort. “The trail and outdoor classroom will provide teachers and students with an opportunity to use the environment as a learning tool,” added Williams. 

McCusker was part of the original team that created the Whitefield Wilderness Explorers, an extracurricular activity offered to students in grades five through eight at Whitefield School. Whitefield School’s Wilderness Explorers recently spent two days in the White Mountains learning about the fragile alpine zone. Novice students spent nine hours hiking to the summit of Mt. Hale then on to Zealand Hut while an experienced group traversed the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to Lakes of the Clouds hut then up to Mt. Washington. Both groups were instructed by their classroom teachers and AMC staff as they climbed with full backpacks up the rocky and steep mountain trails. 

AMC staff instructed students on “Keeping it R.E.A.L.” on the trail. Using the acronym, students learned to effectively use Resources, to respect the Environment, to have a positive Attitude, and to always be open to Learning while out in the wilderness. AMC staff illustrated the concepts through a variety of activities that engaged students in keeping it R.E.A.L. For example, students examined maps before setting out, determining the rigor of the trail by identifying topographical details on the map. 

Through a partnership with the Appalachian Mountain Club, Whitefield School is able to provide students with valuable learning experiences in the wilderness that exists in their own back yards.—the essence of place-based learning. Funding was provided for this experience through a generous grant from the Waterman Fund, a local organization that fosters stewardship and care of alpine environment. 

A Trail to Every Classroom is a collaborative effort provided through a partnership of the 
Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the National Park Service. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ready To Climb

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

If I had to sum up the first TTEC workshop in one word it would be incredible. Incredible because it was a great experience to be in a room with so many educators who want to find innovative ways to teach. I teach special education and the last few years I have only had boys in my classes so I’ve been researching possible reasons for the identification of more boys and researching new ways to teach boys. Three ideas that were consistent was competition, playing, and being outdoors. After creating a summer program that uses the Appalachian Trail the application for TTEC came across my desk and I knew I had to be a part of it.

I created the Ready To Climb (RTC) program for 4th grade boys who are in learning support or have academic or social needs. The basic idea of the RTC program is to give boys a different approach to learning. We preview 4th grade math and science curriculum and use the Appalachian Trail as one of the learning environments. The TTEC program was introduced to me and I thought it could be helpful and informative or even a great compliment to RTC. The boys in the program are lucky that I am in TTEC. The spring workshop was filled with important information that I have been able to use this summer. We have been using lessons from the “Leave No Trace” binder to teach the boys about the trail and etiquette on the trail. I gained insight about taking kids on the trail from the guest speakers and alumni who presented their experiences.

I look forward to the summer workshop and collaborating with more innovative educators.

Pictures: The end of the hike with TTEC in October, muddy and heading back to school at the end of the last hike with the boys, Ready To Climb learning about human made changes to the environment under the bridge

Execution Plan

James Garst
Assistant Principal
Andrew Lewis Middle School, Salem, VA
TTEC 2015 Cohort

I attended the wonderful kickoff session at Mountain Lake on Friday, May 1 and 2nd.  While the weather was cool and rainy on Friday, the clouds eventually parted and we were able enjoy some blue skies and wonderful views. 

A few comments on the weekend…
  • Wonderful accommodations and location
  • I felt an immediate comradery with the other educators participating in the TTEC
  • Friday evening session was a wonderful way to build lasting friendships in the program

Upon returning to school, I met with my assembled team of teachers to debrief on the information I had obtained while at Mountain Lake.  The teacher team is made up of 2 PE teachers, 2 world geography teachers, 2 civics teachers, 3 English/Language Arts teachers, 1 CTE teacher, and 1 administrator.  I asked several of the teachers to participate because of their great rapport with kids and love of outdoors.  Others simply volunteered to participate.  My goal is to provide an opportunity for teachers to participate at both the classroom and school wide level.  I reviewed the information presented at the Mountain Lake conference and asked teachers to design their “dream” lesson plan involving the Appalachian Trail (or simply being outside).  Many teachers already had a fantastic idea in mind, while others toyed with several ideas for their respective classes. 

The wonderful professional dialogue that followed was completely unexpected.  I could feel the excitement and rekindled passion that the teachers had for doing creative lessons to meet the needs of learners.  Certainly all teachers worry about standards/SOL’s, but it was refreshing to hear the “what if” side if teachers can incorporate TTEC into their current classroom setting.  As the discussion concluded, we set a goal of everyone trying to implement at least 1 lesson outdoors next year (15-16 AY) with no restrictions of where it is.  We have a local greenway within walking distance, and we are a few miles from the actual AT.  We are starting to work the ‘kinks’ out during summer school PE.  We are taking the class hiking several days and will report out in our next meeting scheduled for next fall.    

A week at the National Conservation Training Center

James Garst
Andrew Lewis Middle School
Salem, VA 24153
2015 TTEC Cohort

What a wonderful week meeting new colleagues at the summer institute!  There were several key ‘take aways’ from the week that can immediately be put into action upon returning to school.
1.        The time provided to work independently and collaboratively regarding our individual schools was priceless.  During this time, I was able to formulate specific ideas to implement a Hiking Club and identify funding for several of our excursions.  Specifically, I was able to develop the mission and purpose of our club and put together a calendar for the year. 
2.       Resources galore!  I’m not sure I have ever been to a professional development workshop that provides this many resources that are useful and immediately applicable.  A goal of mine this week was to collect information to bring back to my building disseminate to those teachers that want to participate in the TTEC program.  I feel like I have more than enough information/tools/resources to get started immediately when the teachers return.  Of particular interest was the Quest workshop that is applicable across a variety of disciplines.  The hands on activity was certainly a worthwhile exercise. 
3.       I participated in the grant writing workshop that provided a vast list of grant opportunities.  While important for my outdoor club, I was able to learn a skill that will help in many future endeavors. 
4.       Most importantly was the opportunity to network with WONDERFUL folks from Georgia to Maine in all of the communities along the way.  I strongly feel that this is the best resource provided by the ATC.  The time to network and discuss ideas and plans was invaluable.  I not only made several friends, but I also have contacts to collaborate with as I begin the program in my school this year.

Investing a week with the ATC further confirmed my passion for the trail and getting kids active and outdoors.  I am grateful for the opportunity and look forward to fostering the relationships formed during this wonderful week!

Monday, August 10, 2015

TTEC Summer Institute Reflections

Mike Cruse
Arlington Career Center
Arlington VA 
2015 TTEC Cohort 

         July 27, 2015
Spending the past week with peers at the National Conservation Training Center was a real gift, but I'll stop short of saying how blessed I feel to have been part of the experience. 

Honestly, I feel like the roses far outweighed the thorns, which isn't something I usually feel when reflecting on professional development.  The sessions were informative and the time and opportunity to collaborate with others made this a true learning experience. 

As the only teacher from my school, located more than an hour from the closest entry point to the trail, I wasn't sure how I could make the AT relevant to my students' lives. What I realized as part of our exploration of place-based education is how you have to start with the place students call home, before you can expand outside of that comfort zone. That is especially important when your students live in urban settings and come from minority groups that historically haven't been represented in parks and on trails. It was encouraging to hear about the National Park Services's (NPS) initiatives to promote greater diversity, reflective of 21st century America, as it prepares for its centennial. 

As a white male who works with a primarily, minority student population, I've questioned my role in addressing the gap between my world of the outdoors, and my students' comfort with urban environments.  I love cities too, and all the diversity that they offer, but I think we all need space to reflect on our lives. At the high school level, we ask students to reflect a lot, but if we don't give them access to some form of natur

e where they can experience what it is to be reflective observers and listeners, we may as well be asking them to write an essay without providing them with paper and pencil. 

Now I see my role more as a guide than as a teacher.  There is a lot that I don't know about plants, animals and the natural world.  I do know how being surrounded by it makes me feel though, and that's what I want to share with my students, one step at a time.  My hope is that by exposing them to new environments, they will grow into their own appreciation of nature.  That's bound to look different than my feelings about nature, which are part of almost every memory of my childhood. 

As different as our feelings may be, I have to trust that they will be struck with something akin to the awe I feel each time I watch a sunrise or sunset over the rolling hills of my native Central PA. If they feel that, I know that they too will care enough to preserve them, to save them from everything that ails our cities and planned communities. In the words of the NPS, I want to set them up to 'find your park'. If they find that place in the world, I'll know that they've found it inside themselves too.

Exploring the AT in our Backyard

Barbara Lindtner
Seven Generations Charter School
Emmaus, PA
2015 TTEC Cohort

July 15, 2015

After a few exciting days at the Front Royal workshop, it was obvious we had to explore some of the AT in our backyard in PA.  If we meant to design curriculum and take students out, we would have to hike it ourselves.

We wanted an area that could accommodate 3rd, 5th and middle school students.  And be a reasonable bus ride from the school in Emmaus Pa.   Using the maps Karen gave us, we scoped out our first hike-- the Allentown Shelter, along PA Section #4, Port Clinton to PA route 309.  It was accessible to parking (important for a school bus) and seemed like a gentle easy hike.

Once there, it was so impressive to see the amount of healthy understory—native plants, trees, and scrubs were growing in abundance.  One of the children hiking with us was a student of mine.  He was also impressed, and shared my amazement at how different the landscape and forest was from the preserve we hiked at near our school.  We arrived at the shelter to find a Boy Scout Troop setting up camp. The shelter was clean, empty and had some trail magic waiting for a through hiker. We sat down to have some lunch, adding some treats next to the Pringles can that sat perched inside.

Within minutes, a through hiker sauntered up and set his pack down.  We exchanged hellos and directed him to the trail magic and shelter book.  He grabbed the book and a treat, and climbed on a ledge around the corner from the shelter opening.  We learned that he started in Georgia in March, that it was very cold, and he was travelling with a large group, some in front and others behind. After lunch, we hiked back to the cars and talked about plans for our next hike.  An easy hike, 4.7 miles and gentle for all grades.  Several weeks later, two of us hiked on Section #1 Delaware Water Gap to Wind Gap.  We found a small parking lot on PA 191, and hiked in, past the Kirkridge Shelter and several lookouts to Totts Gap.  The hike was a little bit more difficult due to the rocks, but nothing our students couldn’t handle.  Due to time, we turned around and hiked back to check out the shelter. The shelter was clean and bigger than the Allentown shelter, with a privy and water. We hiked back to the cars and talked about how this would fit with our curriculum and how we envisioned it working with the different grade levels.  What strikes me is just how easy it is to get out on the trail.  Can’t wait to explore more!


John Applin, co-writer
5th grade teacher, Capon Bridge Elementary School
Capon Bridge, WV

Rebekah Lang, co-writer
7th grade teacher, Seven Generations Charter School
Emmaus,  PA

2015 TTEC Cohort

July 23, 2015


Belonging to this TTEC cohort can be simultaneously affirming and frustrating.   In our meetings this week my pedagogy was  affirmed.  At the same time I find my pedagogy only scratching the surface of possibilities.  Questing is one example.
Questing is active learning.  Questers solve riddles posed as poems to gather clues.  As questers gather a clue, they record it with a stamp.  These clues add up to some treasure. As Delia wrote, students (young and old) “explore both familiar and new places, making exciting discoveries, building strong connections to cultural and natural heritage, and becoming stewards in the process.”  
In a strictly education (traditional) perspective the possibilities appear limitless.  Place based education is cross curricular.  There are no lines demarcating subject areas in real life.  Similarly, questing erases  the artificial borders separating reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.  Reading comes in the form of researching clues.  Writing comes in the form of writing those clues.  This process is made more rigorous as clues are written as rhymes.  Science, math, and social studies are all included in those clues.  Together, the clues lead to a “treasure”.  What captures my attention is that this “treasure” is intrinsic.  There is no tangible prize.  The treasure is learning for learning’s sake.
Place based learning is at work across the country.  What place does it hold in your educational toolbox?


Years ago, I created “treasure hunts” for students I used to babysit as a way to edutain them. I’d write and hide clues around their property and then they’d get to go find them. Usually the reward was simple: they enjoyed puzzling and earned a “high-five.”  I had created them because my favorite babysitter had done it for me when I was little. I had no idea that these “treasure hunts” were done around the world under another name! As a teacher, I was well-aware of “webquests” and somehow never realized they must have started before the internet as plain old “quests.” It seems so obvious now!
If quests were engaging enough for the children I babysat to want to do outside of school, I can imagine they would be a huge hit in my classroom too! I have brainstormed several ways in which I could tie them to my academic standards (7th grade ELA):
  •  Send the students on a quest in the beginning of the school year as an introduction to the building and resources(or perhaps limit this to my classroom)
  • Make a novel-specific quest that has students searching in the book and around the classroom for text-to-world connections
  • Use Google Earth to create a hybrid version of a quest (but not a true “webquest”) in which students travel the same route as protagonists in a story (e.g. Huck Finn or Laura Ingles Wilder)
  • Have students create a quest of their neighborhoods or homes as a writing activity (focused on specific word choice, meter, rhyme or other style traits) as well as a community building/personal sharing activity
  • Use quest-style clues as a review activity before a final exam or culminating event
  • Assign a back-to-school night quest for parents (with QR codes to scan) around the school building to make the night more engaging
  •  Have students complete a quest or create one on the Appalachian Trail (or another local trail) to engage in nature and connect it to other learning (clues could relate to literature or non-fiction texts read as part of the pre-teaching for the hike)

Key Research and Findings
  • Athman, Julie and Monroe, Martha, 2004. Julie and Monroe, Martha, 2004. The Effects of Environment-Based Education on Students’ Achievement Motivation.  Journal of Interpretation Research, 9(1):9-25.
  • Chawla, Louise, 2007. Student Gains from Place-based Education. Children, Youth and Environments Center for Research and Design.
  • Chawla, Louise. 2007. Benefits of nature for children's health.Children,Youth and Environments Center for Research and Design.
  • Duffin, Micahael and PEER Associates, 2006. Why Use Place-Based Education in Your School? Four Answers that Emerge from the Findings of PEEC, the Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative.
  • Ernst, Julie Athman and Monroe, Martha, 2004. The effect of environment-based education on students' critical thinking skills and disposition towards critical thinking.Environment Education Research, 10(4): 507-522.
  • Falco, Edward H. 2004. Environment-based Education: Improving Attitudes and Academics for Adolescents. Evaluation report for South Carolina Department of Education.
  • Liebermann, Gerald A. and   Hoody, Linda 1998. Closing the Achievement Gap: Using the Environment as an Integrating Context for Learning State Education and Environment Roundtable.
  • National Environmental Education Training Foundation (NEETF), 2000. Environment-Based Education: Creating High Performance Schools and Students. Washington, DC.
  • Place-based Education Collaborative (PEEC), 2008. The Benefits of Place-based Education. Warner, NH.
  • Rosenthal, Jennifer 2008. Place-based Education Research and Studies. Annotated bibliography. Doctoral Student, Curriculum & Instruction, SUNY at Albany, NY
  • Semken, S. Journal of Geoscience Education. 2005. Sense of place and place-based introductory geoscience: teaching for American Indian and Alaskan Native undergraduates.
  • State Education and Environment Roundtable (SEER). 2000. California Student Assessment Project: The Effects of Environment-Based Education on Student Achievement.
  • American Institutes of Research, 2005. Effects of Outdoor Education Programs for Children in California.
  • They Remember What They Touch: The Impact of Place-Based Learning in East Feliciana Parish. Rural School and Community Trust.


David Adamiak
Urbana Middle School
Ijamsville, MD
2015 TTEC Cohort


When one hikes the AT, it’s a topic of nearly every hiker. Did you see a bear? Was he aggressive? Did he go after your food?  Do you use the bear pole at the shelter? I just completed 6 days on the trail last

week.  I started in Harpers Ferry and traveled south to Thornton Gap in SNP. The first thru-hiker I saw said to me,” I just saw a bear with her cub just 10 minutes ago.  Make sure you keep your dog close to you.” ( I brought my trusty Border Collie, “Bryce” with me). On the end of the second day, I made it to the “Bear’s Den” campsite.  They had a tree with carving with a …you guessed it, a bear (see photo).

Talking with through hikers at the end of day three at the Rod Hollow shelter, someone shared a story about how a hiker got attacked by a bear in his hammock.  Apparently he had an open can of tuna with him while he was resting. As a result, everyone put up their food on the bear pole that night ;-)

I got to see my bear just south of the Tom Floyd shelter.  He or she was fairly young.  I rounded a corner and surprised him.  He immediately ran a few yards down the trail and then turned left.  I was able to see him for a little while longer, for he traveled parallel at a short distance with me.  I never felt in danger.

My hike would have not have felt complete if I hadn’t seen one.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club

Donna Evans
TTEC Training
Homeschoolers, Sterling, VA
2015 TTEC Cohort

July 8, 2015

In preparation for the upcoming TTEC summer workshop in Shepherdstown, WV, I visited the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), one of many local clubs along the Appalachian Trail tasked with preserving and maintaining this important resource.  The PATC is a volunteer-based organization located in Vienna, Virginia.  It was formed in 1927 to help build and maintain 240 miles of Appalachian Trail stretching from Pine Grove Furnace in Pennsylvania to Rockfish Gap in Virginia (the southern end of Shenandoah Park).  While the PATC still maintains this section of the AT, it also now manages more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails in the Mid-Atlantic region.
During my visit, on July 7th, Staff Director Edna Baden showed me around the facility.  She spoke very highly of the TTEC program and Karen Lutz and Betty Gatewood who were involved in my training regarding the AT.  Edna gave me and my five year old son, Dean, a tour of the tool room.  We saw the tools used by the many volunteers to maintain the AT.  We saw the paint used to mark trees.  We visited the Board Room and the library which is filled with many fascinating books.  Members can check out these books for up to one month and learn all about the Appalachian Trail and related topics.
It was such a pleasure to meet Edna and other staff members at the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club to discuss ways that volunteers might share in and contribute to the mission of preserving the Appalachian Trail for generations to come.  I hope that I will be able to design helpful materials and make a good contribution towards that end as I participate in the TTEC program and beyond.      

Blog Book Illustration Contest in Maine

Rose Raymond
Library Tech
Granite St. Elementary School
Millinocket, Maine
2015 TTEC Cohort

June 19, 2015

Millinocket, ME In 2014 students at Granite St. Elementary School participated in an art contest sponsored by the Millinocket Literary Club.  Millinocket was designated an Appalachian Trail Community in July of 2013 and the Literary Club wanted the artwork to be a part of an advertising/fundraising campaign that would promote the Appalachian Trail and the Katahdin region.  Students were read, Ellie’s Long Walk, the True Story of Two Friends on the Appalachian Trail, by Pam Flowers.  A Mountain Adventure, by Patricia Griffith Morgan, about Mt. Katahdin, and S is for S’mores, a Camping Alphabet, by Helen Foster James.  Each book brought about discussions on what it would be like to hike, what you might see, and what you should bring.  I brought in my pack, a hiking pole, a picture of a lean-to, etc.  The only criteria we had for students was that they use the A.T. symbol somewhere in their artwork.  On week four Mrs. Grabber the art teacher took over the project, helping students put their thoughts about the A.T., Katahdin, and hiking on paper.  The artwork was amazing!  These illustrations were given to the Literary Club who selected one honorable mention and one winner in each classroom.  The winning illustrations were then given to the A.T. committee who had them made into postcards that would be sold throughout Maine communities promoting the A.T.  Proceeds from the sales of the postcards would go into the general fund of the Appalachian Trail Town Community.
The book illustration contest was a great wintertime project ending with a springtime assembly announcing the winners.  The winners were presented with their original artwork in a glass frame.

North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald