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.

North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald