Monday, November 28, 2016

Beyond Limits!

Let the Appalachian Trail awaken your potential!  Meet Saint, faithful companion and service dog to Dr. Jacqui Lowman, who together plan to thru-hike the AT in 2017.  The pair must overcome both physical and emotional challenges to conquer the trail and they are sharing their story through Saint’s eyes on her Great Adventure (with Mummy) blog and invite you to join them on their journey.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Urbana Hawks on the Trail

David Adamiak
Urbana Middle School
Ijamsville MD

David Adamiak of Urbana Middle School shared this great new logo for the hiking club he is working on starting this year!

Currently one of the PE teachers uses a google form for students to record their steps. The form converts their steps to miles and then they compare it to where they would be on the trail if they started at Springer Mountain.

This program is just getting started with the new school year--good luck Urbana Hawks!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

More Teachers on the Trail in Harpers Ferry!

August 4-5, 2016

This August, ATC , the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Park Office, and Shepherd University teamed up to offer a new kind of professional development workshop for teachers in Harpers Ferry, WV.

(Click here for ALL the photos!)

Inspired by collaborative  Park for Every Classroom workshops in National Parks across the northeast, this model was a bit different from the traditional Trail To Every Classroom workshop series.

The workshop was just 2 days, with an ambitiously full agenda designed to introduce local teachers to resources and potential partners right in their area--while building a foundation of knowledge about place based service learning and sharing resources to use the Trail as a living classroom.

The participants were 23 upper elementary and middle school teachers from Jefferson County, WV and Loudoun County, VA. Just about every discipline was represented--from History, Civics and Social Studies to Art, Math, and English. How could one short workshop offer something for everyone?

Here's how: by showcasing the incredible wealth of natural, cultural and historic resources the Harpers Ferry area has to offer!

Each day started with a morning on the Trail, with 2 groups hiking a loop and stopping along the way for interactive educational stations. Afternoons were spent indoors, hiding out from the heat while sharing ideas and learning about the A.T., hike leadership, place based service learning, and local partners in conservation. There was also time for teachers to start developing a curriculum concept, and share it with their peers and the workshop leaders for feedback.

Thursday's hike traveled through historic lower town Harpers Ferry, with five stations along the A.T. and blue-blazed connector trails. Ranger Stan McGee of Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, dressed in the uniform of a union soldier, gave a talk about the Civil War history of Harpers Ferry on Camp Hill. Ranger David Fox, also of the National Historic Park, told the spellbinding tale of John Brown's raid right in the engine house building he captured.

Diving into pre-history, geologist Mike O'Donnell of Lord Fairfax Community College gave a presentation on geology and geography right at "The Point"--with the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and the bluffs above the rivers as a spectacular backdrop.

Park Service Archaeologist Mia Parsons gave a tour of the ruins of early industry and daily life on Virginius Island, and ATC's Northern Resource Management Coordinator Marian Orlousky shared a range of lesson plans and service learning opportunities related to the study of natural resources on the A.T., such as invasive species and phenology monitoring.

Friday morning started with a short drive to Gathland State Park in Maryland, with another loop hike --this time showcasing lessons and activities that can be used almost anywhere on the Trail to teach a range of subjects.

Matt Graves, Program Manager for Interpretation, Education, and Outreach on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, led a number of interactive games designed to teach key concepts in studying ecosystems--'Oh Deer' and the circle lap sit were a big hit. ATC Education and Outreach Coordinator Kathryn Herndon led a "Hip Pocket Activity", Poesy Poetry, which produced some excellent poems and a lot of ideas among both groups of teachers.

Amanda Lane of the A.T. Park Office led a Leave No Trace activity to explore personal ethics (What Bugs You The Most), and Hope Midock, also of the A.T. Park Office, shared several math activities related to the Trail with her multicolored A.T. rope serving as an excellent visual aide.

Both on the Trail and in the Mather Training Center, the energy level among this vibrant group of educators was through the roof. We can't wait to hear how they incorporate the A.T. and place based service learning into their lessons this year.

There are some lucky students in Jefferson and Loudoun Counties this year! But Harpers Ferry isn't the only place on the Trail with a lot to offer educators--not by a long shot. ATC, with Park Service support, hopes to offer more locally-based professional development workshops for teachers in other school districts in 2017. Stay tuned to this blog for details!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Bats Matter!

Roseline Raymond
Granite St. School
Millinocket, Maine 04462
TTEC 2015

Bats are in trouble throughout the Northeast with a disease called White-Nose Syndrome. Bats play a critical role in our ecosystem; it’s a real world problem that exists in our community.

4th grade students at Granite St. School wanted to address that problem through their service learning project. During library I read them, A Little Brown Bat Story by Melissa Kim, Bat Hospital by Clare Hibbert, The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bat by Sandra Markle and The Life Cycle of a Bat by Rebecca Sjonger.

They were given magazine articles; watched YouTube video on White-Nose Syndrome and a small mammal biologist from Wildlife Fish and Game Dept. came in and talked to students about the plight of the little brown bat. Both 4th grade teachers worked diligently with students to research habitat, the role bats play in our ecosystem and asked how can we help bats?

Students formulated a plan to use the Michaud Trail right beside their school to install three bat houses to repopulate the bats in our community while decreasing the insect population. In order to accomplish their goal students wrote letters to persuade the town council to agree with their proposal.

Four persuasive letters were chosen and those students had the opportunity to read their letter at the town council meeting. 4th grade students were on the agenda on April 14 th , 4:30 at the Municipal Building in the Town Council Chambers.

It was a unanimous decision by the council that the bat houses could go up on the Michaud Trail, success! Students then wrote to area businesses asking for donations to supply materials. Sterns lumber came through and donated all the materials needed to accomplish their goal.

This project tied into 4th grade reading, writing, speaking and government curriculum. I need to thank both 4th grade teachers, Mrs. Cassidy and Ms. Daigl who gave so much of their time and talent to this project, it would not have succeeded without you!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Refurbishing a School Trail

Donna McCusker & Jessica Williams
The Whitefield School
Whitefield, NH

Wow wee, it's really going to happen! On December 6 a group of invested community members, teachers, administrators and students met to remove very old and decomposing bog bridges from many many years ago; well over 20 bridges. In addition, we did some clearing and planning. Okay , so how did we get to this point? First of all, teachers and students consulted with the Appalachian Mountain Club who came out and gave wonderful insight as to what direction we needed to take with what we had. Afterwards we did a very intense mailing to the community with our intentions for the school trail, held a community meeting and things began to happen.
So what are our next steps? We have secured folks and material to build brand new bridges. Next, we will choose a Trail Day which is when we will put in the new bridges and the students will continue with any needed trail maintenance. We look forward to giving you an update in the spring!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Closing thoughts on a wonderful opportunity…

 James Garst
Andrew Lewis Middle School
Salem, VA 24153

I recently had the opportunity to wrap up the third workshop of the TTEC Series. Throughout the course of the day, I had the opportunity to reflect on the program as a whole and plan how the program will impact my school.

As an administrator in the program, my experience has been quite different. The workshops have provided me with a skeleton framework that I can now provide to teachers in my school that are interested in pursuing the TTEC theme in their classroom. I also have been able to create a unique hiking club geared primarily towards getting at risk youth working and hiking on our beloved Appalachian Trail.

Most importantly, the program has instilled an everlasting love of the Appalachian Trail and all of the hidden magic it beholds. After the final workshop, I took my two young sons (Jackson- 4 and Parker-2) hiking on the AT for the first time together. (Jackson had previously done a few shorter hikes with me). We walked south form the 311 parking lot in Catawba, VA. We only walked about half a mile before we encountered a beautiful view of the entire Catawba Valley. 

Both Jackson and Parker signed the trailhead register for the first time . Their chicken scratch toddler writing was proudly posted next to the poetic lines of thru hikers and day hikers alike. 
Most importantly, the program has instilled an everlasting love of the Appalachian Trail and all of the hidden magic it beholds. After the final workshop, I took my two young sons (Jackson- 4 and Parker-2) hiking on the AT for the first time together. (Jackson had previously done a few shorter hikes with me). We walked south form the 311 parking lot in Catawba, VA. We only walked about half a mile before we encountered a beautiful view of the entire Catawba Valley. Both Jackson and Parker signed the trailhead register for the first time (picture). Their chicken scratch toddler writing was proudly posted next to the poetic lines of thru hikers and day hikers alike. 

We played ‘follow the white blaze’ each taking turns being the leader. We played the traditional hide and seek at our destination. We also played ‘pick up the trash’ – a game that daddy invented on the walk out. While I was supposed to be counting during our epic game of hide and seek, I sat quietly and for once felt I had a true appreciation of what the AT is and what it stands for.

I returned to school the following week rejuvenated and inspired to continue on with the hiking club. Our first meeting was a true success with 22 kids showing up. Our next meeting will be spent planning the spring semester so we can get out on the trail!

Happy trails to the wonderful folks with the ATC and those hands that helped the TTEC program!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Community, near and far

Megan Capuano
South Middleton School District
W. G. Rice Elementary
Boiling Springs, PA
1st RTC hike of 2015: Mid-Atantic ATC office, Boiling Springs

According to Merriam-Webster, community means a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Wikipedia states that a sense of community is a concept which focuses on the experience of community rather than its structure, formation, setting, or other features. We are members of many communities and in my lifetime the sense of community has been empathetic, compassionate, and helpful.

The last few years I have been feeling that the sense of community is shifting to be less helpful, less compassionate. I realize I have a pretty sheltered outlook but it has always felt like humans wanted to watch out for each other and human kindness drove our actions. Now, social media is filled with videos of people doing bad things and celebrating in mistakes made by others. Videos showcasing pain and suffering are being shared with “LOL” captions. Inhumanity is being promoted as the norm and that is sad to me.
Last RTC hike of 2015: Hawk Rock

The community of Trails To Every Classroom (TTEC) shares a positive, compassionate, helpful, and sincere sense of community. TTEC is a network of people, teachers and students, all humans all looking to make the world a better place. We come together as a community to share our common love, the Appalachian Trail (AT).

I have lived within ten miles of the AT my entire life but I probably spent only a few hours on it until two summers ago. I decided to train for an ultra-marathon and that requires many hours running trails. I fell in love immediately and now I spend free weekends running the AT and plan to continue running North and South. I am a part of the AT community.

Since I started my love affair with the white blazes, I have introduced the trail to others. My sweetie hails from Colorado and fell in love with the AT on his first run. It is very different than hiking in the Rockies. Our kids have hiked with us. I have introduced trail running to a few friends. My favorite accomplishment is the Ready To Climb program where I introduced the trail to ten 4th grade boys. Only one had been on the trail before the program. I talk with their parents periodically and everyone has taken their family onto the trail. They want to do the program again. They want to hike and they want to be on the AT. Everyone I have taken to the trail is now a part of the AT community.

TTEC accomplishes more than having teachers write curriculum for the AT, it expands the Appalachian Trail community and adds to a positive, compassionate sense of community. When the TTEC teachers came together as a group this past summer it felt good knowing that I could talk to any person at the resort and have something in common – the Appalachian Trail. I am not a hiker and really I’m not even very outdoorsy but I love the AT – truly, I am in love and would marry it if I could and I’m not even the marrying type :-). But I still have something in common with a thru hiker.

The community!! TTEC works to bring others into the wonderful world of the AT and the outdoors. Being in nature and feeling love makes it difficult to hate. Trails To Every Classroom is reaching another generation to join the Appalachian Trail community.

Don't underestimate the power of your vision to change the world. Whether that world is your office, your community, an industry or a global movement, you need to have a core belief that what you contribute can fundamentally change the paradigm or way of thinking about problems. ~Leroy Hood

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Jackie Simmons
Specialist for students with hearing loss
Carteret County Schools, NC
TTEC 2015

I am privileged to be part of the Trail to Every Classroom program. I live on the coast of North Carolina in what I refer to as The Promise Land and a little piece of Paradise. My YO-HI (yoga and hiking program ) will begin in one our local high schools here in January. All that said, my connections with the Appalachian Trail are challenged by my distance as you can well imagine.
In my last hike on the Appalachian Trail, I found myself for a couple of nights in the hostel in Damascus, Virginia. There were few hikers, but there were several long distance cyclists stopping in for a rest spot, to take showers, or simply to regroup as most backpackers do. It was through them I discovered an online hospitality website called It hosts long distance cyclists offering them a place to camp, a bedroom, meals, transportation, or whatever the host is able to provide. I joined when I returned home to give back in some capacity and return some of the kindness shown to me as a backpacker.

I have hosted cyclists from all over the world on all different sorts of adventures. They have come from different walks of life: the financial world, teachers, a lifeguard, a detective, a policeman…much like the AT hiking community. As much as I would like to live under a rock sometimes, I know we are all built for community. We should take care of each other, share stories and information and be kind to those who cross our path. We should listen. 

My most recent guest was not a cyclist, but a long distance backpacker. He was on a long distance hike from Key West, Florida to the Canadian border. He was a previous AT section hiker and completed the entire trail as well as hiking cross country in sections. He was supported by his lovely wife. It was so nice to connect with a hiker through a cyclists hospitality website. They stayed with me for three evenings, and shared in people and places in my coastal community.

Community requires commitment. It is an integral part of the TTEC program. It is also important to us as individuals. Cultivating commitment requires giving of your time and your resources …sacrificially sometimes. Cultivating community requires a general interest and compassion for people that comes with frequency. We all know one of the benefits of hiking the AT is the community we encounter. Build and cultivate community wherever you are. You never know the connections made. Those you serve will remember your hospitality and investment in their journey! And…join!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

TTEC Fall Workshop: Hot Springs, NC: September 17-19, 2015

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

Summer and Thursday afternoon were fading when I arrived in Hot Springs, via Mars Hill and sundry hamlets on the road through Western North Carolina; one of my favorite regions to ramble around. I am reasonably familiar with Hot Springs, but I had never been to (or even heard of) my destination, The Sunnybank Inn. I found the address, and pulled into a driveway occupied by a number of cars bearing progressive/liberal/pro-environmental bumperstickers. 

Figuring I had found the right place, I walked up to the house. Shelves and cabinets and bookcases filled with pottery, books, and trail needs/gifts/trades crowded the porch. I knocked on the door and stepped into a very clean and incredibly equipped and supplied kitchen: bundles of herbs, peppers, and spices dangling hither and fro; burnished pots and pans and gleaming utensils hanging by the dozens; notes, books, photos, prints, and paintings peeking out from every nook and cupboard. A dry erase board was on the fridge, and my name was on it (spelled correctly even!)

No one appeared to be around. “Hello?” I called.

I waited a couple of minutes and went a bit further in, “HELLO?”

I then got a response: “Ruh-Roof!”

A curious Border Collie/Dalmatian/HeinzHound57 came ambling out. We quickly became friends due to our good natures and the bag of Canine Carry-Outs I habitually carry in a pocket. We wandered around the house (if I may use such a pedestrian description for the Sunnybank Retreat) for a bit, and I marveled at the d├ęcor; the furniture, the lamps and ancient fixtures, the curios, relics, statues, and the shelves and shelves of books. My new friend and I hung out for a little while. Eventually some humans showed up. I was delighted to see familiar faces from the Southern Cohort and the ATC staff. I was introduced to our host, Mr. Elmer Hall, and found out my four-legged friend was known as Jimmy Carter. Elmer gave us all (as more and more of the TTEC crew drifted in over the next few hours) a semi-formal walkabout of the Inn, and showed me my room (wonderful accommodations).

Elmer had mentioned that meals at the Sunnybank Inn were exclusively vegetarian; he explained that the Inn hosted so many Hindu groups and families, (?) that he had gone vegetarian with all the meals just to simplify things. Being a carnivore, I raised an eyebrow at this, but as the first breakfast was served, my slight misgivings were dispelled; everything Elmer and his crew made was incredible. Following breakfast, Elmer gave us a detailed history of the town of Hot Springs and the Sunnybank Inn, including a number of anecdotes of the many memorable characters that have stayed there over the past several decades.

Our cohort went on a Discovery Quest up and around to the west. We visited one of the hostels, tracked and counted the AT markers down the sidewalk (The AT runs through the middle of the town), visited a number of cultural/historical sites, generally checked out the town, and had a fine lunch at the Smokey Mountain Diner (highly recommended), 

We then embarked on our main activity of the day, the Lover’s Leap Hike. We noted native flora and fauna, looked for invasive species, and discussed seasonal differences in the plant life along various sections of the AT (I confess, before these workshops, I had never heard the term “Phenology”, much less knew that it was a defined and dedicated field of study). The hike was wonderful and the views were spectacular. 

After the hike, we did a session in the mineral waters of the Hot Springs Resort, and although it was pleasant, I reflected that it was nothing out of the ordinary; the gym I go to actually has a much larger and nicer Jacuzzi. “Taking the Waters”, one of the primary reasons for the existence of Hot Springs as a town, has in my opinion, become rather mundane. We finished the day with an outstanding supper from Elmer and his crew. 

After another amazing breakfast (I don’t know how Elmer managed to make vegetarian gravy taste so incredibly good), the cohort traipsed down to the Hot Springs Public Library (many people don’t realize what a boon even a modest library is to a small, rather isolated town) where we could catch a Wi-Fi signal, and organize and put the final touches on our TTEC lesson and unit presentations. Finishing these at the last second in true “grad student” style, we hurried back to the Sunnybank and gave our presentations We discussed, critiqued, suggested, and networked (with a break for an excellent lunch) way up into Saturday afternoon. 

At the last, our mentors and guides from the ATC/TTEC had prepared a special ceremony for the members of the Southern Regional Cohort completing the TTEC program. We walked into the side yard, where we were given accolades and a rather nice certificate of completion from the ATC and the National Parks Service. We were charged with keeping the spirit of wild places and wilderness beating within our hearts, and instilling a sense of community and stewardship within the hearts of our students. I take this very seriously, and I feel honored to be entrusted with this.

As with all of our workshops, the only thing I disliked was the fact that it had to come to an end, and I had to say farewell to wonderful places, and more importantly, people that I had become very attached to. My experience with the TTEC and my involvement with the ATC make me feel like a part of an extended family, and part of something much greater than myself; something that began long before I arrived on the scene, and something that will continue long after I have moved on. I’m a better person for the experience. Thank you all for everything this year

North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald