Thursday, October 8, 2015

Step #1, plus an overview of my project

Jill Fornadley
Harpers Ferry Middle School (WV)
2015 TTEC Cohort

September 25, 2015
My first step will be taking my 8th grade classes to Lower Town, Harpers Ferry in order to silently observe it on their own. After about ten minutes of roaming through town silently together, I will give them time to keep journals of things that they see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. I will also have them draw the favorite thing they saw that day. Inevitably, their lists will be different from the others. The point to drive home here will be, “even though we are exposed to the same things, we bring different experiences to them, and so take away different messages”. This doesn’t make anyone wrong, just different.

I wasn’t able to take this hike with the students before the last TTEC meeting, as we have to align our hikes with the National Park Service, and the earliest date up for grabs was November 6. I decided that I would only take my Honors 8th graders through all the steps of this project for several reasons: 1) I have a really good group this year, who are easy to manage and all seem interested and 2) I have them for a longer period than most, so that will be helpful too.

The second step will be taking the students on a John Brown themed hike in January, guided by an NPS park ranger. I will begin my Civil War lessons about a week before, so that it is fresh in their minds, and so that they can see where this all actually happened. The point of this is to instill an appreciation for the history that most of them know about, but few fully understand.
Finally, towards the end of the year, after a school year’s worth of familiarization with the trail by way of the reward system that is tied to the map, and sporadic video clips and/or stories read in class, I will take them on an actual hike on the A.T., as well as a visit to the A.T.C. Headquarters. Once this has been completed, I will revisit the question of why they should be proud of their town/state. Maybe not this year, but eventually I would like them to create postcards to be sold at the A.T.C. Headquarters, in order to make money for the school. 

TTEC Training

Homeschoolers, Sterling, VA
2015 TTEC Cohort

During the TTEC summer workshop in Shepherdstown, WV, we took a side trip to Harpers Ferry, the current mid-point of the Appalachian Trail.  Although we approached the AT from the ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy), passing the Stephen P. Mather Training Center and walking down some steep steps to touch the trail, we did not actually go walking on it.  This Blog post is to encourage you to come back and take that short trail down into historic Harpers Ferry  and also to share with you a few sights through photos of what you would see if you hiked this short little section of the AT.
I got so excited after the first TTEC training that my family and I explored the AT trail in Harpers Ferry in order to learn more and that is how I can share this with you. 
PLANT LIFE: After you walk down the steep stairs onto the trail – just outside and not far from the Mather Building – you’ll see mullein, garlic mustard, hackberry, maple and tulip poplar trees, to name a few of the plants there.
A SHACK: You’ll see an old abandoned building that looks like a shack.  Can anyone from the area tell me what it is?
A SIGN: You’ll see a sign that points to the Appalachian Training Conference, which presented a learning point for me that the ATC used to be called by that name but in 2005, the C in ATC was changed from Conference to Conservancy. 
A ROCK WITH A VIEW: You’ll See Jefferson Rock.  Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Notes on the State of Virginia that the scene from Jefferson Rock was “worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”  Right from the Jefferson’s Rock monument which is right on the Appalachian Trail, you see a view of the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.  It is pretty – an amazing part of the AT.
A TRAIN: Amtrak goes through the local Harpers Ferry Train Station as well as the MARC commuter train that services Washington DC And Baltimore, MD. You can see the train coming over a bridge and pulling in to an historic building train station built in the late 1800s.
LOCATION OF JOHN BROWN’S RAID: You will see a building in downtown historic Harpers Ferry showing the place where abolitionist John Brown tried to start an armed slave revolt in 1859.  He attempted to seize the arsenal at Harpers Ferry but was defeated by US Marines led by Col. Robert E. Lee.
HISTORIC DOWNTOWN HARPERS FERRY:  You could wander through the historic part of Harpers Ferry.  There are historic buildings and museums on the main street and a cool gift shop/bookstore featuring lots of titles about the Civil War.
COOL APPALACHIAN TRAIL SIGNS:  There is a sign showing how Harpers Ferry is the mid-point of the Appalachian Trail, with 1165 miles left to Maine and 1013 miles to Georgia and signs to send you on your way in either direction.

So, I hope you enjoy these few pictures and narratives and that you will have the opportunity to enjoy this part of the trail.  Happy trails to you!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Atlantic Salmon in Schools Program

Rose Raymond
Library Tech
Granite St. School
Millinocket, ME
2015 TTEC Cohort

Atlantic salmon stages of development
 Granite St. School has participated in an Atlantic salmon in schools program since 2010. This environmental program allows Atlantic salmon eggs to hatch as students watch them in their stages of development, shown.  Just before February vacation volunteers deliver 200 salmon eggs to a fish tank where the temperature is just above freezing. Over the course of many months the salmon begin their transformation through the different stages of development.  Once they develop into Fry, a stage where the yolk sac has completely absorbed into the body, we only have a few days in order to get them into the river.  It is now the month of May and at this point the tank temperature should be 50 F very close to the river temperature, where they will make their home.

On the day of the field trip to the East Branch of the Penobscot River students are shown how to siphon the salmon up with tubing from the aquarium into a bucket.  We note the importance of matching the river temperature with the temperature of the bucket water and assign a student to this task when we get to the river.  This is a great time to do a pocket activity with the rest of the students.

Students always ask once they’re released, what’s going to happen to them?  The fry will remain in the area where the students release them for a couple of years, where they will feed on black fly, mosquito, stonefly and the caddisfly.  As the salmon parr continue to grow through their second winter they undergo the biological changes of smoltification, a process that takes place in certain gill cells and kidneys of the fish, allowing it to live in either fresh or salt water.  These two year old salmon, now called “smolts”, imprint on the particular chemical “fingerprint” of their home stream.  They actually learn the unique smell of their home river which allows them to recognize and return to it two years later when they return.  The survivors of the salmon students stocked in 2016 will instinctively migrate downstream to the ocean in 2018.  They’ll enter the sea, and migrate northeastward to Greenland, where there’s lots of food.  They’ll eat shrimp which gives them their salmon flesh color.  At four or five years old, 2018, they’ll once again begin a migration back to their home stream in Maine where they stocked them. Unlike Pacific salmon, which all die after spawning, Atlantic salmon returns to spawn several times if they get really lucky in avoiding predators.

What grade will you be in 2019, when the salmon come back?  A fun topic of discussion for students to realize the length of this life cycle!

This program goes beyond classroom borders to involve the local community in resource management.  It gets students into the outdoor classroom and teaches them stewardship in protecting natural resources.

WARNING. . . Insect repellent is toxic to the fry.  To be safe, no one on the field trip can bring or use insect repellent!
Once the container and stream temperature are matched, students will transfer the fry into the river giving the number of fry to the student in charge of the count.  The data is totaled for a completion of the permit.

Introducing Project to Students

Jill Fornadley
Harpers Ferry Middle School (WV)
2015 TTEC Cohort

September 15, 2015

Despite lofty expectations in terms of what is to be taught in 8th grade WV History classes, I decided to attempt to inject my TTEC project right into the middle of it all. In a nutshell, my project is introducing students to the concept of prejudice by way of pointing out a type that they are all exposed to: the reaction they often get when they tell people that they’re from West Virginia. I would like to build an appreciation of their state and their location in Harpers Ferry as a point of pride, so that they can educate would-be bullies about the finer points of their hometown. I will also (obviously) extend this to other cultures and peoples who are maligned for their religion, skin tone, birthplace etc. I will foray this into my Civics unit when talking about bias, prejudice, discrimination, and stereotypes.

I began the year discussing the different regions of the state, the surrounding states, as well as landforms and waterways. I also took a day and a half of class in order to introduce the Appalachian Trail (history, location, distance, culture, proximity to us in Harpers Ferry etc) to the students. Most of them had heard of it, but it seemed as though few realized how close it was to them.

I discussed all of the aforementioned topics with them, and then I had them create pictures of themselves as hikers, complete with trail names that they gave themselves (I know it was supposed to be given out by classmates, but as my kids are middle schoolers, I was afraid someone would use it as a chance to offend another). Using the map of the A.T. that we were given this summer, I plan on using it as a means of rewarding good behavior (ie: 100’s on tests or quizzes, straight A’s for a marking period, reaching their reading goal, perfect attendance etc). I wasn’t sure how they were going to take it, especially since my SmartBoard was down and I had to do the presentation without pictures, but they got really into it. Several asked me a few days later if they were going to learn more about the A.T. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Reflections on the TTEC Experiences

Jessica Leach
Stearns High School
Millinocket, ME
2015 TTEC Cohort

September 28

When this journey started I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that I loved hiking and being outside. This program has brought that to me and so much more. In May of this year Rose and I heading to the White Mountains in NH. We were not even sure what we were doing. After the intensive first workshop we had lots of ideas with lots more questions. 

At that point our plan was to try and get kids on the  AT at our closes spot. Hurd pond lean-to. This process would involved lots of volunteers, bus drivers, monies and lots more. We thought we would maybe start a map of the trail and when you read so many books you walked so many miles. The challenge being the class or group that finishes first gets a field trip with a hike on the AT.  It all sounded so great and exciting but really hard to make happen.

West Virginia was in our sites and we could not believe we were heading there for a week long workshop. I have been teaching for 14 years and one half day workshop is usually enough. The classes were great and the time we spent there was full of learning and ideas. Our group of 7 from NE was becoming closer and I was really enjoying that. 

During that week Rose and I had decided that we are going to start doing work on our local walking path with incentives to get on the trail. We were going to remove an invasive species from the path while also giving the students the knowledge of plants and their habitats. It was a great idea and a good transition from our original project. This one seemed a bit more realistic. We would get speakers to come in and talk about phonology and plants, backpacking, leave no trace and many more things. Our grant list was getting bigger with the help of Evan our vista. The idea was coming together. The walking path was the great idea with speakers, grants, 4th graders and much more. 

One week from our final workshop and I receive a text message from Rose. She wants to change our project to White Nose Bat Syndrome. I say sure, lets do it.  Our final workshop is in Vermont. It takes us 6 hours to get to Delia's house, 2AM we arrive, with a full day on Friday.  

I was excited and ready for our workshop. We all trickled into the library that our workshop was held in Quechee, Vermont. All our friends and partners in this journey are here for the last time also. Rose and I talked and discussed our options for the final proposal. We got our power point together and presented. WNS it is, putting up bat boxes and monitoring them with the 4th grade. We just needed the final part of tying in the AT.  Hikes, speakers and grant money to get us on the AT is our goal. Helping bats and relating all the science about bats to the kids is going to be enjoyable because they will have the opportunity to see real life science in action.

We left Vermont at 2:30 with a tear in our eyes for a few reasons. We can not be  TTEC's anymore, just an Alumni. We will not get to be together as a group again in a workshop. These people have become our close friends and colleagues. They have taught me so much and how to think out of the box.

All our instructors have been amazing and insightful. I hope that one day I can be as wonderful a teacher and inspiring to many as these people have that facilitated this project.

Reflection Prior to Summer Workshop / Brainstorming

Jill Fornadley
Harpers Ferry Middle School (WV)
2015 TTEC Cohort

July 15, 2015

I must admit that I am very spoiled in terms of location for the TTEC summer workshop. I live in the area, and teach a stone’s throw from the A.T. at Harpers Ferry Middle School. In preparation for the TTEC summer workshop, I decided to take a day and hike around the Lower Town section of Harpers Ferry. Obviously, I had done this before both with and without students, however, not with this particular purpose in mind.

It was very interesting and strange to walk around the town where I work as a tourist. I played the part to the hilt, too. I wore a daypack, took pictures, and bought myself an ice cream cone for good behavior. What I discovered was that if I were hiking the entire A.T., Harpers Ferry would seem like an oasis to me upon arrival. There is a river that is safe for recreational use on hot days, restaurants, bars, hostels, churches, the A.T.C. headquarters (“the psychological halfway point” between Maine and Georgia!), and even a spa!

Despite hours of exploring and months of brainstorming, I am still struggling with how exactly to meld the goals of the TTEC project with my curriculum. My current train of thought involves attempting to fit it into our civics unit, as there is a component involving obligations of U.S. citizens- i.e.: voting, jury duty, and civic engagement. I feel as though the unit I inevitably create can fit under the category of civic engagement, but creating a more cohesive plan on this front is what I hope to accomplish within the first day of our workshop.

Other potential ideas (brainstorm list):
-       Track how a bill becomes a law by discussing the history of/problems facing the Trail; have students determine a law that they deem appropriate for trail safety/maintenance etc and have them write a bill, and explain to me (via written assignment) how that would come to be. (Plus letters to Representatives, meetings with Reps?) 
-     Prejudice/Bias about teens/West Virginians (helping out to show that not all teens are disrespectful, and that WV are not "hillbillies") 
-    Appalachian cultural exchange; trail head info 

-     Health problems of the area (WV is one of the least healthy states in the US)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Lessons from the Trail: Whitefield School students follow a mountain path as their classroom in life and leadership

Jessica Williams & Donna McCusker
Whitefield School
Whitefield, NH

September 22

As rain showers splashed against window panes, most people slept soundly on an early Sunday morning.  However, an intrepid group of students and their teachers met at the Highland Center at the foot of the White Mountains for an adventure of a lifetime.  This was the day that eight middle school students from the Whitefield School Wilderness Explorers were to begin their leadership summit to Mizpah Hut and Mt. Pierce.  Teachers Donna McCusker and Jessica Williams organized the leadership summit as part of their project for Trail to Every Classroom.  The training that they  received at TTEC, their partnership with the Appalachian Mountain Club and funding from a grant through the Waterman Fund enabled the teachers to offer this valuable experience to their students.

Joined by Whitefield teacher Ashley Guilbeault and TTEC advisory council member Janet Steinert, the teachers and students met their AMC guides, Matt Maloney and Olivia Bronson.  Mrs. McCusker and Ms. Williams had met with AMC staff earlier in the summer to plan out instruction that would provide students with curriculum content from the Common Core, intertwined with instruction on leadership skills while participating in a rigorous climb to a mountain summit.   Students learned to read a map, using topographical cues to predict the terrain ahead; to use mathematical skills in the reading and setting of a compass; and to communicate effectively as a group and as student leaders.  Additionally, students practiced the tenets of Leave No Trace while gaining a full appreciation of their environment and of wild spaces.

After some introductory exercises at the Highland Center and a backpack check to make sure everyone was well equipped, the group set out on the Crawford Path.  They began at a sign that provided a history of the path, explaining that the path was the oldest trail in continuous use in the US.  In 1819, Abel Crawford and Ethan Allen completed the Crawford Path, which led to the summit of Mt. Washington, the highest point along the Appalachian Trail north of the Mason-Dixon line. The group slowly climbed up the flank of the mountain, stopping to learn a new concept or to engage in another leadership exercise.

As the students neared Mizpah Hut, the path joined the Appalachian Trail.  Some students exclaimed that they planned to thru hike the AT when they were older.  Matt and Mrs. Steinert had hiked the entire AT and were happy to share their experiences with the students.  Shortly after reaching the junction, the students reached the hut and entered quietly.  After settling into their assigned bunkrooms, the students joined other guests for a scrumptious dinner of stuffed shells, salad, soup, homemade bread with real butter, and a surprise dessert.  The students ate heartily, hungry from a day of hiking in wet conditions.

That evening, students met in the library for a game of Trivial Pursuit, reviewing the concepts they had learned that day.  With energy waning, the students turned in early and quickly settled down for the night—not a common thing for middle school students. But these kids were tired.  They had had a full day of physical and mental exertion.

After breakfast the next morning, the group packed up and began a steep climb along the Appalachian Trail up the side of Mt. Pierce, into the alpine zone at 4310 feet high.  At the summit, the rain stopped long enough for the students to take a snack break and to rest before descending 3.1 miles to the Highland Center.  Matt and Olivia cautioned the students to only step on “durable surfaces,” rocks, for the fragile alpine environment could not endure the tread of hiking boots.  Matt described the flowers and plants that survive the harsh climate and that can only be found in the Arctic and here in the alpine zone of the White Mountains.  With a new appreciation of their environment, the students stepped lightly as the rain pounded down upon them.

As the group picked along the boulders during their descent, students chatted merrily, stumping each other with mind-boggling riddles while stopping to drink water or to eat.  As they neared the end of the trail, Olivia gathered the group for one last exercise.  She instructed the students to reflect upon what they had learned and to recognize a group member for something special that that person had given during this expedition.  One young man announced that he had gained a “passion for the wilderness,” and the group quietly nodded in agreement.  This had been an experience that these young students would not ever forget.

North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald