Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Power of Maps

David Adamiak
TTEC - Mid Atlantic Cohort

In generating interest in the Appalachian Trail, I set up the amazingly huge map the was provided by the ATC.  With the help of the UMSTV Morning Show, an announcement was made requesting students that had hiked the trail to see me and together we would place a bubbled note on the map. It would include their name and pinpoint the location where they had hiked. In just a few short days, 15 students came to me.

Teachers also came to me and we “pinned” them too.  The biggest surprize came from our Assistant Principal.  She had hiked from Swatara Gap, PA to Springer Mountain, GA when she was 15.  That’s 1,176 miles!  She did this in a very nontraditional way by living off the land.  She carried a bow and arrow and used it to hunt with. She also ate berries to sustain herself.  Word is spreading about her endeavor.  Kids asked her what it was like.  She told them that she would not do it again the same way. She also told them that they should do it when they were older than 15 and use mail drops.  Some kids asked if she felt like Katniss from “Mockingjay”, because she used her bow to hunt.

Interesting enough, she is from PA and likes to pronounces “Appalachian” the southern version .

I ran into a student in the hallway yesterday.  He asked me when I was going to organize the Hiking Club.  I told him that I will be getting things started very soon.  It looks like the large map is generating interest afterall!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

TTEC's Inspiration

Jessica Leach
Stearns High School
Millinocket, ME
2015 TTEC Cohort

Our final workshop in Vermont was a wonderful way to end my journey from the start in New Hampshire, which made me aware of what the Appalachian Trail can offer, now coming full circle to making it all possible. I never thought that this journey would take me to all these wonderful places, while slowly and purposefully, making me a steward of the Appalachian Trail.

I love the trail even though I have only been on a very small portion of it. The TTEC program is offered to teachers to facilitate their students to provide service learning projects while also getting them on the Appalachian Trail so they will become stewards of the trail for years to come. For me, TTEC has helped me become informed, inspired and motivated to become a steward myself.

I feel that I have a new job. As a member of my local community, a teacher, and an informed steward of the Appalachian Trail in Maine and Baxter State Park I can teach, communicate and offer lifelong skills through our outdoor environment. The three TTEC workshops started with one goal and has morphed into many goals-- something totally different for me physically, emotionally and educationally. I know I have the ability to give information, knowledge and the love of the trail to students and young adults to take with them for the rest of their lives.

My love for the trail and new lifelong friends on the Appalachian Trail are portrayed in my pictures here because of TTEC. I will be forever indebted to Delia Clark and all the Appalachian Trail employees.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hike Inn AT Ambassador to the Schools

Corinne Peace, Katy Trietsch, Leigh Rothermel
The Len Foote Hike Inn
Outside School
Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia

Twigs on Springer Mountain at the completion of his journey
The SOBO’s are arriving at Springer Mountain! Fall is here and as we watch the leaves change and drop, another creature from deep woods emerges from the vibrant colors – SOBO’s! The South Bounders are starting to appear, wild and dirty from their long adventure. Eleven were reveling on October 23 full of emotion and stories. We are fortunate one SOBO, “Twigs”, has stayed with us for several nights working hard in the kitchen along side us. “Twigs” was quite the inspiration for our guests and many commented on how much about the AT they learned from him. His words of wisdom are “Just do it!”

With their completion of the AT is the promise of spring's new beginning and the next group of NOBO’s starting out from Springer Mountain in 2016. The Hike Inn hopes you are excited to “go” with them, as we plan for our A.T. Ambassador to the Schools (ATAS) program we shared at the 2015 TTEC summer institute. We envision connecting the Hike Inn to the ATC’s Trails to Every Classroom participants, through the thru hikers journey.

Leigh Rothermel, a new staff member at the Hike Inn and a NOBO Thru-hiker 2015, is helping to establish the ATAS program. With her unique experience her advice is essential to the Hike Inn’s planning and implementation. Teachers have already sought out Leigh to visit their schools to share her journey with students.

Leigh on McAfee Knob in Virginia
Hikers can benefit from this program by getting kids excited about the Appalachian Trail. They will receive education experience by sharing with students in several ways, options depending on teacher’s preference, include 1) sending post cards to the students along the trail 2) writing blog posts for students to read 3) sending videos of scenic and historical places along the trail 4) visiting the school classroom and sharing their experiences.

Teacher and students can benefit from this program by enhancing interdisciplinary lesson plans and learning from experiential connections on the trail. The classroom can choose to engage with their ‘adopted’ hiker by sending their thru-hiker letters, care packages, and invite ‘their’ hiker to their classroom.

There will be an application process and we will hand pick select hikers interested in participating with your classroom. Only hikers who are truly enthusiastic about getting kids involved in the outdoor community and the Appalachian Trail will be selected.
Hiker Big Easy in Maine
The Hike Inn initiative is to provide support for the collaboration between the hikers and the schools to ensure a successful and enjoyable educational program. The Hike Inn will reach out to hikers through popular Appalachian Trail blogs and our A.T. Ambassador to the Schools Facebook page  ( ) this winter. We look forward to hearing from our 2015 TTEC cohort or alumni’s interest in how you want to participate.

What we need from our TTEC teachers is your interest in this program and which options you want to participate in. Please email Corinne, Katy, and Leigh at to further discuss participation the Hike Inn’s AT Ambassador to the Schools program. You can keep up to date with our exciting new program through our blog site . We look forward to sending spring 2016 trail energy your way!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hot Springs, NC

Rebecca Woody
Long Cane Middle School
LaGrange GA
2015 TTEC Cohort

I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Hot Springs, NC. I plan to take another trip there in the near future. The only downside was not having some of our original crew with us. I really enjoyed the support we received from the support group. Thank you. This has been a great experience and has inspired me to do quite a bit a thinking about my project. Thanks to Tom Sewell and others, Brittany Grace and I have enough money to take a group of students to the Len Foote Hike Inn. I am taking a group in May. I also compiled a booklet and I am going to start working with my group of 20 at-risk youth starting in January to prepare them for working in our school, our community, and preparing them for their hike to the Len Foote Hike Inn. I have attached the booklet also. Jeff, my husband, gave me a wonderful suggestion for our clubs name, "Unplugged!"​

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sampling Experiments in the Berkshires

Cait Ward
Berkshire School
Environmental Science
November 20, 2015
2015 TTEC Cohort

It has proved to be a beautiful fall in the Berkshires, and we have taken full advantage of the weather in Environmental Science.  To kick start the year off, students completed a “21 question” exercise, in which they were asked to formulate a list of questions based on the surrounding ecosystem.  After teasing apart those questions which were testable, students were grouped based on interest and worked together to develop an experiment.  They have since been hard at work collecting data! 

As it turns out, these experiments will serve as great platforms for many of our lesson units.  Not only will this provide students the opportunity to share their studies and results with their classmates, but it will also draw further connections between the material and place that we are in. 

A sampling of experiments that we will use as platforms this year...
Roman, Jack and Johnny are working to determine how tree diversity changes as they head farther into the woods.  This group will be experts in tree identification by the end of their project, and they will be teaching their classmates how to identify trees as part of our introduction into the ATC plant phenology program.

Genesis, Chris and Luke have set up salamander boards (artfully crafted by our own Mr. Dalton!) along three transects with different soil moisture levels.  We will model this method of study at the Kellogg Conservation Center in the spring to study an isolated population of Jefferson Salamanders.

Quentin, Charlie and Jeremy are surveying the diversity and abundance of moss based on light availability.  Moss are both pioneer species and bioindicators of pollution, and data will be used to determine the health of our Berkshire ecosystem.  We will use their project as a cornerstone of our pollution unit.

Simi and Berit have collected soil samples in locations both on and around campus to compare the nutrient levels.  In particular, they are looking to compare differences in nitrogen, phosphorus and pH to determine how fertilizer applied on campus compares to the natural nutrient levels within the woods.  The results of this project will help enhance our unit on biogeochemical cycles, which we are currently in the midst of.

Matt, Jay and Charlie, known on campus as the “sali-hunters,” have spent their lab time searching for salamanders.  Their goal is to create a diversity index of the salamanders on the Berkshire campus.  Today the group found three Northern two-lined salamanders!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Experiencing the Trail

Caitlin Ward
Berkshire School
Sheffield, MA
2015 TTEC Cohort

Classes start up on Tuesday, and in celebration of the last few days of summer, two friends and I headed out onto the AT for a day hike.  We walked out my back door, jumped on a side trail, and were soon on the AT.  Our ultimate goal was a swim in Guilder Pond, one of the treasured landmarks on the top of our mountain ridge.

During our journey, we passed one thru-hiker and a couple our for a labor day weekend trip.  As we walked, I found myself thinking about one of the issues we discussed during the summer workshop: access for all, while protecting the integrity of the trail.  The power in the solitude of the trail has always been the most remarkable part about it for me.  Offering an escape from the boarding school bubble, if only a stones throw away. A world where silence takes on a different meaning.  A shared experience who those you pass both know and feel.  My four short hours on the trail allowed me to reset, feel re inspired, and prepared to tackle the school year that is quickly approaching.

Yes, I want my students to learn and know, but more importantly, I want them to feel.  Looking ahead to this year, building this connection stands as an overarching goal.

Exponential Growth

Cody Ewert
Middlesex Elementary
Carlisle PA
2015 TTEC Cohort

Since, our work in May, 2015, the Middlesex Environmental Trail has been featured in our cabinet level district newsletter sent by the Cumberland Valley School District Superintendent, Dr. Frederick Withum and Assistant Superintendent of Elementary, Dr. Patty Hillery.  We are also now an official site listed with the AT Seasons program for phenology monitoring of red oaks on our trail.  Additionally, we have two boy scouts seeking their Eagle Scout merit through projects they are doing along the nature trail, re-establishing environmental education informational signage, proportionate state markers for the AT along the length of our trail, and a milkweed patch with informational signage for monarch butterflies.  A formal proposal has been sent to the school district to use a space specifically for a pollinator garden of native plants.  Our PTO has supported our efforts in the outdoor classroom by purchasing a composite deck-box to store lesson resources, as well as 3 8ft composite picnic tables to provide additional workspace for students.  We are

awaiting a date from district administration to formally present this work at a school-board meeting later this year.  21 interested 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders have also committed to participation in the Middlesex Elementary Environmental Service Learning Club after school.  As though the above isn’t enough, we have our own website to house lesson resources and information for interested readers about topics related to the importance and benefits of children in nature, Project-Based Service Learning, Leave No Trace, AT Seasons, and the history of our trail.  Whoa! This just got serious! J
At this point in time, funding and service project ideas have become more relevant parts of the conversation.  We have encountered an individual within the community that has decided that he is willing to donate to the Middlesex Environmental Trail and support both short and long-term projects.  We have applied for and received a grant through The Eagle Foundation, a PTO led organization within our district that raises money in order to provide educational enrichment opportunities and clubs to students in the district.  We are also currently in the process of applying for a Lowe’s grant to help fund the pollinator garden project. 
With all of these successes, we have also been able to experience some of the “red-tape” challenges associated with an improvement plan of this magnitude in a large school district.  Last April, we were approved to move forward with all of the plans that have been previously shared by the Assistant Director of Facilities and Grounds.  You may already be able to see where this is going.  6 months later, members of the same department realized something big was happening over at Middlesex Elementary, and decided that it was worth a trip over to observe the activities.  Out of all of the planned activities, one component has not yet been shared.  Unfortunately, it is because I need to now figure out where to relocate it and how best to use it, if at all. 

This is a picture of our 3 stage compost bin built from recycled materials.  It was one of our goals to allow students to participate in the soil cycle as well as waste reduction by collecting specified food scraps after lunch and add it to Stage 1 of the bin.  As part of the club, students would learn about the science and benefits of composting, returning the created soil to apple trees that would provide them with food to bring back into the cafeteria. 
At this point in time, our district has stated that all food scraps must leave any district cafeteria in a trash bag due to sanitary and liability reasons. 
As much as I would like to continue this discussion with the members of this department, I feel as though it is in the best interest of our plans moving forward to be gracious and thankful for all of our approved opportunities. J
It is quite possible that students at some point will wonder why something is not in place at our school, and maybe that question will lead to an eventful service learning project! Unshaken pride, motivation, and determination are constantly driving the goals of the Middlesex Environmental Trail and its current stewards.  

North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald