Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Big Ideas!

Post by Rebekah Lang
When we returned from the TTEC Spring Regional Workshop, there were big ideas that our team discussed:

  • We'd like to develop a school-wide Hiker's Guide that could be taught like our current "First Six Weeks of School." We want to include Leave No Trace principles, Hiking 101 and many other things we've learned from this workshop! They provided us with materials for hundreds of lessons! We just need to figure out a good framework and develop grade level standards for our school. 
  • Nature Journals: We were given time and techniques for nature journaling. My 7th grade students are studying agriculture and already had nature journals primarily used in science class. I jumped on this chance to try to incorporate the nature journals and taught them to be better observers using the timed observation activity. I integrated this into my math class where students had been learning about fractals. I had them notice details their choice of fractal shaped plants (broccoli, ferns, etc). The students LOVED it and asked to try it again the very next class! That level of engagement was so encouraging!
  • Hiker's Backpacks: After learning what supplies should be in every hiker's backpack, I've decided that I'd like to find a way to have a "class set" of hiker's backpacks to sign out for when we do real hikes on South Mountain or on the Appalachian Trail. I'm asking students to donate their old backpacks at the end of the year to start to gather supplies for next year.
Ultimately, I was just so excited to see how TTEC program fits in so beautifully with our curriculum model (which uses the environment as the integrating context for learning). The Spring Regional Workshop has so many immediately applicable ideas that I cannot wait for summer!

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Hiking Art - A first TTEC Ed-venture

Post by Donna Evans, Virginia TTEC 2015 
  While at the initial AT training at the Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation in Front Royal, Betty Gatewood shared how to decorate book covers.  We learned to spray out some shaving cream, add a few drops of food coloring, swirl the color around with a pencil, and place our book covers in the mixture.  Then, we scraped off the shaving cream and allowed our wonderfully decorated books to dry.  These books can be used in our nature studies along the Appalachian Trail to write notes, draw, and color plants or wildlife that we experience along the way.

In fact, we all did take our newly decorated books along during our AT section hike to Compton Gap.  An observation I made was of one participant finding some charcoal from an old fire pit and using it to draw a tree trunk.  It was a dark color and made a beautiful black tree trunk.  Then, he grabbed some green plants close to where he sat and rubbed them to create green colors for grass and trees.  In addition, he picked up some sand and rubbed it into the scene, creating a contrasting light brown color.  This new type of nature art got me really excited.  From another in-class presentation, I also learned about using water-soluble colored pencils that can be smudged later to look like water painting.  Having never really participated in nature art, I had many new things to look forward to.

During the month of May, the same month as the initial training, I purchased some BareBooks with plain white covers, purchased shaving cream, and gathered dyes and other materials needed to make colorful book covers with students – my three home schooled children.  It was a big success making the books together.  The kids (ages 5, 6, and 8) thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

 One thing I learned by accident is that it doesn’t really matter if you choose white or blue shaving cream.  For the first few books decorated, I had the standard white shaving cream.  Then, fearing I would run out before projects were finished, I purchased some more and didn’t realize it was a blue type until home.  We experimented with it and found that blue shaving cream turns white as you swirl it around and using blue shaving cream does not seem to affect the outcome of the project.  It still results in a white background book cover with colorful swirls.

We (my children/students and I) look forward to using our nature books on many future hikes to record our observations and reflections.  I feel very fortunate to be a part of the TTEC training course – for all that I can learn and then for all that I can share with others.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Connections and Reflections

The first weekend of our TTEC cohort in Ft Royal, VA was great.  A drizzly Friday made for a good first day to be spent mostly indoors, learning about the program and each other.  As the only high school teacher of the group, I felt a little out of place at first, but quickly remembered why most of my teacher friends are in elementary schools.  They're really friendly, and know how to work collaboratively.  I think that's what gets lost in schools sometimes as students get older.  We want students to collaborate on projects, but we don't always model that well for them in high school.

I thought I knew what I wanted in my curriculum, but the sessions with Betty, Karen and TTEC alumni threw a monkey wrench into that - in a good way.  As the only teacher from my school, and my district, I realized that I need to capitalize on what's already going on with my school, and expand it.  We already do a lot in terms of sustainability, but I don't know that it's always clear to the students why we're taking these actions.  After reflecting on what I want to do with this experience on our Saturday hike, I realized that I need to take one of these sustainability issues and make the connection to the A.T.  As we hiked, I wished my school was closer to the Trail, or any real nature besides a few street tree boxes and a landscaped courtyard.  Some members of my cohort can see the Trail from their school, or be on it in under 30 minutes.   The connections still need to be made with students, but how great to have that kind of access to the Trail, or some nature within a short walk of your school campus.  

Hopefully, I can see if there's a way to get students on the Trail at some point, but in the meantime, I need to be thinking about what resources the A.T. provides my community, and how I can help students to reflect on our dependence on it, and appreciate these benefits from a distance.  We are starting a partnership as a Monarch Sister School with a school in Mexico. Surely, if we can get students interested in Monarchs in Mexico, we can get them to see the beauty and natural wonder that's on the A.T., 90 miles to the west of us.

My photos are snapshots that remind me of the idea of interconnection - which is what I'm left thinking about after this weekend.  The Chase, was in the lobby of the dorm where we stayed at the Smithsonian - Mason School of Conservation.  It caught my attention because it's a lot of things.  It's funny, maybe a little violent, but most importantly, it's part of the natural order.  We all need resources, and provide resources to others.  We are connected, in good ways and less desirable ones too.  Making these connections with students is part of what I enjoy about working in a high school.  It's where the protection of childhood meets the truth of the world they're inheriting.  

The second is a sketch from my pocket journal - thanks, Betty - that I did during our lunch break on the Trail.  It helped me to visualize the connections I want to make between different people at my school, in my district and the larger A.T. community.  In my head, that list was starting to feel crowded and exhausting.  Putting it down on paper in a simple way, might not make sense to anyone else, but it helped me to relax, take a deep breath, look out over the skyline and realize I wasn't alone in my efforts.

Written by Mike Cruse

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Janet's Story of TTEC

Last week, Janet told her incredible story of her experience with TTEC, how she began a wilderness adventure program at a local elementary school and how her students were able to follow her as she thru-hiked the ‪#‎AppalachianTrail‬.

If you missed the webinar, you can watch the recording.  Click HERE to view the webinar.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Raising the Next Generation of Stewards


Read Kathryn Herndon's new post, Raising the Next Generation of Stewards, about 2015 TTEC applications on ATC's new Blog: https://atconservancy.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/raising-the-next-generation-of-trail-stewards/!

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!

North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald