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“Trail to Every Classroom” by Herb Brambley
I recently attended the National Park Service Teacher Conference called A Trail to Every Classroom. The 2009 cohort included 49 participants from Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. In addition to teachers from the above mentioned states which the Appalachian Trail traverses, there was staff from three other trails; Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the proposed Mississippi River Trail, and yes, you guessed it, the Iditarod National Historic Trail.
So, what is this Trail to Every Classroom? TEC is a workshop administered by the National Park Service which helps teachers develop a curriculum for their school using the Appalachian Trail as a recreational, environmental and educational resource. The Trail to Every Classroom curriculum has several functions, 1) to get students outside, experiencing the environment, 2) to get them actively involved in their community performing a needed service, and 3) to teach students the unique history of their community so that they know why and how their community originated. These goals are accomplished by using two teachings methods; Service Learning and Placed Based Education.
Who benefits from TEC? Everyone! That’s the great thing about using these methods to teach students. The students aren’t learning in a vacuum. They are actively participating in their learning as active members of their community. Students also benefit by using all of the content areas during their involvement. The very nature of TEC lends itself easily to a multidisciplinary approach. As an example of this, during the TEC summer workshop, teachers could attend a technology session where they learned to use a GPS as a teaching tool in their classroom. They also had the opportunity to attend a science oriented environmental quality monitoring session where they were learning about the effects of air pollution on vegetation and soil, doing a macroinvertebrate study in water and in the soil.
And what was I doing there? Other than playing a lot of music every night and eating the fantastic meals prepared by the kitchen staff at the National Conservation Training Center, where the conference was held, I did a presentation on the Iditarod Race and I worked on developing a TEC program for Alaska with 3 wonderful people; 2 from the United States Forest Service and 1 from Alaska Geographic. As many of you already know, especially those that attended the winter conference, I love to play my guitar and I use a lot of music in my classroom. At the conference, I met someone from Vermont who had a mandolin and an accordion, and another person from Missouri who played the harmonica, and it wasn’t long before we had a 3 man band. You should have been there!!!