Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Workshop in Rockbridge County, VA, August 2017

Rockbridge County, Virginia is home to two designated A.T. Communities--Glasgow and Buena Vista--as well as a wealth of natural resources. Thanks to a fundraiser by the A.T. Communities, ATC, and the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club, the Rockbridge Public Schools Foundation has a special fund set aside to support outdoor education for local students.

August 1-2, 2017 ATC partnered with the Foundation to host a TTEC workshop designed to arm teachers with tools and inspiration to make the most of this grant opportunity. The workshop was based at Natural Bridge State Park, and included hands-on outdoor learning with a STEAM focus each morning and curriculum development in the afternoons.

The first morning was spent on the main trail at Natural Bridge State Park, passing under the famous bridge itself and cycling in small groups through activity stations for hands-on experience of activities teachers could use with their students. NBSP Lead Park Naturalist Katie Charles led a creekside station on macroinvertebrate sampling, with supplies on loan from Boxerwood Gardens. ATC's Kathryn Herndon-Powell led a series of Leave No Trace activities, and ATC Natural Resource Specialist Conner McBane led a station that explored a number of citizen science programs and nature identification apps using ipads generously on loan from Rockbridge County Public Schools.

Day 2, everyone hopped in the vehicles for a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the A.T. at Thunder Ridge Overlook. Progress was slowed down by a road maintenance project on the Parkway, but eventually the group got to get out of the vehicles and walk on the Trail. 

Carol Caswell greeted the group on behalf of the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club and gave a short presentation about what the Club does and ways they can work with and support teachers, and she tagged along with a group for the hike. ATC's Molly Hagan led a trailside series of Hip Pocket Activities, and Kathryn led an A.T. Math exercise and an exploration of fibonacci numbers at Thunder Hill Shelter. 

TTEC alumni Betty Gatewood and Lisa Connors--illustrator and author of the book Milkweed Matters--led a nature journaling station. On returning to the State Park, several local organizations introduced themselves over lunch. Katie Charles spoke about the State Park's education programs, Kathy Hall gave an intro to the Glenwood Pedlar Ranger District of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, and Hannah West outlined the robust outdoor education programs at Boxerwood Gardens.

The 11 educators who attended the workshop brought great energy and enthusiasm that reflects their passion and talent for teaching. Several exciting curriculum ideas were hatched and connections made across grade levels and disciplines. Many thanks to all the partners who helped make this workshop possible, especially Kathy Burant of the Rockbridge County Public Schools Foundation! We hope to be hearing about some Rockbridge County students exploring their public lands--maybe even the A.T.--this fall and next spring.

North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald