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

TTEC Blog
TTEC PARTICIPANTS DURING A 2013 SUMMER TRAINING SESSION//PHOTO BY BOB RYDER//TEXT BY KATHRYN HERNDON, EDUCATION AND OUTREACH COORDINATOR


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:
http://repository.uwyo.edu/ycc_rec/

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!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Our Classroom Defined

by Tawnya Finney, TTEC Alumni

“The Trail to Every Classroom” coined TTEC was launched in 2006 as an initiative to connect teachers and students to placed-based service learning on the Appalachian Trail.  I participated in the TTEC program in 2008 and recently participated in TTECwork this past summer.  These classes and workshops have been a valuable contribution to activities and strategies that I use in my classroom and with my Appalachian Trail Club at school.  However, I believe that as we utilize the lessons and activities that TTEC provides to us, we need to periodically reassess our definition of “classroom.” 


I am sure that many teachers have experienced newly defined terms of classrooms over the past several years.  With the evolution of our physical classrooms and the expectations for our classrooms, I have had to be flexible with my approach to sharing the Appalachian Trail with my students.  This brings me to the questions “What is my classroom?”  “Is it the space within the four walls of my school?”  When I search for the definition of “classroom” on the web, I turn up several results.  Merriam-Webster defines classroom as “a room where classes are taught in a school, college, or university.” One of the definitions of Dictionary.com states that a classroom is “any place where one learns or gains experience.”

This past year has been a flurry of activity in my local town of Waynesboro, PA.  We were officially designated as an Appalachian Trail Community in April.  With that designation came the responsibility and commitment to promote the Trail and educate our community.  Since the official designation our steering committee (made up of community members, business members, municipal employees, PATC members, and teachers) has had a busy year. Our biggest focus this year has been a presence at many local festivals.  We have our 15’ long map of the Appalachian Trail (provided by TTEC) that we display, as well as brochures, and coloring pages and AT tattoos for children.

While at these festivals, I have become increasingly aware that my classroom is not just the four walls in my school building.  My classroom is also my community.  As we speak with visitors, we get many questions about the Appalachian Trail including “How do I know that I’m on the Trail?”  Wow!  It really does get that basic.  Many people in our local communities haven’t hiked on the Appalachian Trail, don’t realize that it is a National Park, and are timid about getting out on the Trail on their own.  People won’t care if they don’t know or don’t experience.

I propose that not only do we need to connect the Trail to our classrooms in school but also to our communal classroom:  offer a monthly hike; build a Facebook page and invite your community to “like” it; set up a small table at your local town festivals; ask your local library to host an Appalachian Trail talk night.  When people become connected to the Trail, it’s amazing the stories that you hear and the excitement that is generated.  When people become excited about the Trail, they also become passionate.  The knowledge and passion that is generated from community activities will be what protects our Trail and what we teach our young students for years to come.  When defining my classroom,  I believe that I must go back to the definition of “any place where one learns or gains experience.”  Students of all ages should be able to learn and gain experience when it comes to the Appalachian Trail classroom and all of its resources.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

TTECwork: Building Your TTEC Community Network workshop July 21-23, 2014

Excerpt from an upcoming A.T. Journeys article by Kathy Seiler

Ranger Betty Gatewood, a TTEC alum, PATC volunteer, and co-Chair of the TTEC Advisory Council, welcomes the group to Shenandoah National Park

The TTEC-work: Building Your Trail to Every Classroom Community Network workshop was held July 21 to 23 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia. This focused and action-packed workshop covered a wealth of Trail-related topics. Projects for both community and student involvement, strategies for building awareness and education, and methods to align group activities with community, state, and national partnerships were explored.

Teacher Michael Smith-Foot of Blairsville, GA putting together the puzzle!
TTEC alumni were invited to apply for the program with the team concept in mind, which is to bring a TTEC alumnus, a "new" teacher not yet trained in TTEC, and a community member or local Trail club representative together. Bringing together different backgrounds of experience and points of reference creates stronger possibilities for networking back in home areas, and strengthens Trail ties for students and communities alike.

Beginning a quest in the A.T. Community of Front Royal, VA.
This new model of TTEC as a network focused on specific goals and ideas, with built-in time for teams to work together and make an action plan for their community. Brainstorming sessions to generate ideas, share obstacles, and suggest possible solutions covered many situations. Teachers and community members from Dalton Massachusetts, Harlem Valley New York, Waynesboro Pennsylvania, Franklin North Carolina, and Blairsville Georgia kept busy from morning until mid-evening after-dinner sessions.

The group also tested a new interactive board game (Thru-Hike: The Appalachian Trail Game; currently on Kickstarter) and gave feedback to its creators, participated in a Quest in Front Royal, and hiked part of the A.T. in Shenandoah National Park, collecting data for the Trail-wide American chestnut MEGA Transect along the way as an example of citizen science on the A.T. Each team member also received a full set of hiking maps for their state.
Shenandoah National Park A.T. marker

The Georgia team shared how their TTEC activities are integrated into their middle school. Sylvia Garner uses the Trail as a year-long theme for art activities. During the unit on Georgia O'Keefe's style, Appalachian flowers are used as subjects for students' art creations. Bob Williams showed photos of their 6th-8th grade students hiking the Trail at various sections near Blood Mountain, and utilizing outdoor spaces as living classrooms. Michael Smith-Foot voiced his passion for continuing this mammoth but rewarding challenge of "No Child Left Inside" for their students.

The Waynesboro team set a goal of creating a Quest with student involvement throughout the upcoming year. This project, a type of treasure hunt/scavenger hunt using facts and history in a rhyming format, will invite the curious to explore the town in a fun way. Having it available and ready to use by next summer's first area "Appalachian Trail Festival" is the goal. (Check out the Facebook page for "The Greater Waynesboro, Pennsylvania Appalachian Trail Community" for updates.)
Historic chimney on the A.T.

Kristina Moe, a librarian from Franklin North Carolina, seemed to speak from the community-at-large group when summarizing her insights into sharing student learning project ideas with teachers, and how both groups can be helpful for each other. The key is awareness − and time to coordinate goals, strategies, outcomes, and evaluations. This TTEC-work workshop afforded such an opportunity.

Turks Cap Lily
Dalton, Massachusetts teacher Meg Donovan remarked that this was her first professional development conference that was multi-state, multi-subject, and sponsored by multiple organizations. She was pleased to find herself energized and excited about taking home more than just a binder of notes.



Enjoying the view on Mary's Rock

Working together with teachers of various grades and subjects definitely spans beyond the usual possibilities.

Attendees enjoyed blackberry ice cream milkshakes at Elkwallow Wayside, four black bear sightings, and the valley view from Mary's Rock while in Shenandoah National Park. On campus, pockets of free time afforded walks to see the endangered animals bred at SCBI, such as maned wolves, red-headed cranes, cloud leopards, and Clint, the Marianas crow. As each day passed, the group evolved from sitting with "who you came with" to new cross-Trail acquaintances, demonstrating the program’s early success through meaningful human connections. As part of the concluding ceremony for participation certificates, the group sang Tora Huntingdon's original "The Appalachian Trail Song" written by her second grade class in Dalton.
Tawnya Finney with a blackberry milkshake!
 Speaking not only for myself but for the entire group − kudos to the fantastic team of TTECwork facilitators: Delia Clark, Facilitator from Woodstock Vermont; Rita Hennessy, Assistant Superintendent of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Karen Lutz, Regional Director of ATC’s Mid-Atlantic Region, Kathryn Herndon, of the ATC’s Southwest and Central Viriginia Regional Office, and Betty Gatewood, Shenandoah National Park naturalist/interpreter, and her husband, Mark. Other speakers included Sonja Carlborg from Front Royal, Bonnie Harvey of Portland State University, Dick Hostelley of the Potomac A.T. Club, Marlene Jefferson from Loudon County Virginia, and Pete Irvine of George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

One of FOUR bears spotted in the Park,

Feedback from the entire group, from leaders to participants, shows positive reactions. Nurturing those willing to use their time, energy, and student/parent/community ties with expertise from Trail professionals and the supporting maintenance clubs will help to keep the Trail in good stead for its future.



Trying out a "Hip Pocket Activity"

Getting folks out on the Trail of all ages (it’s always amazing to find locals who know it’s there, but don’t use it) is the main goal. After all, as the African environmentalist, Baba Dioum, remarked in 1968: “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” Teaching what the wonders of the Trail can reveal to those who pass over it, and what the Trail needs for its conservation, is why we band together.

The TTECwork 2014 cohort at Mary's Rock!


North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald