Trail to Every Classroom

(Under construction, links and images to be added soon.)

“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!!!

The National Guard Can Provide a Unique Drug Education Program at Your School

As mentioned in my previous blog posting, I want to write specifically about the programs provided by the National Guard in the area of drug, alcohol, and substance abuse. There are several programs available through the National Guard designed to suit your specific needs in the areas of leadership training and drug education. Even if your school currently has a drug education program, I believe it would be advantageous to research available programs through the National Guard. Perhaps your school has been doing the same drug education presentation to your students for several years and your students are becoming a little bored with the repetition. Maybe the teachers are too. Check out the National Guard Drug Demand Reduction (DDR) program. It will provide a fresh approach to drug education for your school.

During the teacher’s conference this past summer, I had the privilege of experiencing first hand several of the activities that are used in their lessons. To say the least, I was extremely impressed with the activities and how the lessons are tied in to drug education and leadership training. Before one of the lessons, we were told that we could learn a lot from a rubber chicken. Well, I was very skeptical. But, as it turns out, rubber chickens are very, very intelligent. Rubber chickens can teach you the importance of communication. Really!!! If you want to learn how, check out your local National Guard DDR program.

Another lesson which was done on a low ropes course required our group to work together as a team to complete the course from one end to the other. It was virtually impossible for one person to complete the course alone. In order to maintain balance on the cable we were walking on, an overhead rope had to be swung to you so that you could hold on. As you progressed to the next section, another overhead rope was swung to you by the person in front of you. In this way, you were able to make your way along the entire course. Almost like swinging through the trees with Tarzan, Jane and Cheetah.

Our final activities were on the high ropes. When I say high, I mean about 40 feet high. Talk about a different perspective on things. High ropes require trust. Trust in yourself, trust in the people on the ground, and trust in your partner on the ropes. They also require confidence and the ability to overcome obstacles. Not just physical obstacles, but emotional and mental as well. I don’t believe there is any way to prepare yourself for the mental challenge of a high ropes course. The feelings and challenges that are created on the high ropes are completely different from anything else most people experience in life. It is a unique feeling that almost overwhelms you as you work with your partner to exchange places as you walk a telephone pole 40 feet above the ground. There is nothing like a high ropes course when you want to build confidence, problem solving skills, and the ability to overcome new challenges one might face in any aspect of their life. In Pennsylvania where I live, the high ropes are done at Fort Indiantown Gap as a residence program. Don’t let me scare you away from these programs with my stories of the high ropes. The National Guard has a variety of programs available.

Summer Teacher’s Camp – Don’t let another summer go by without attending this conference!!!

This year’s (2009) Summer Teacher’s Camp was another gem among many. Starting off with 4 days and 3 nights at Vern Halter’s “Dream A Dream Dog Farm,” we got right in to the mushing and dog care aspect of the teacher conference. With Vern at the wheel (literally), we bounced over hill and dale, and Vern guided us through the twist and turns of developing a run/rest schedule for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

We met authors such as Pam Flowers and Rod Perry. Pam Flowers was the first and only woman to traverse the arctic alone by dog sled. What an eye popping story! Pam’s books are available at Rod Perry recently completed a book about the history of the Iditarod Trail called Trail Breakers, available at Rod is an experienced back-country musher who has been charged by grizzly bears no less than 3 times, and has indulged in milk from a mother moose at least 2 times, once in a life or death situation to ward off starvation. Rod was a champion wrestler in college so he must have used some fancy wrestling hold to complete that task.

The Iditarod sign up on Saturday was a great opportunity to meet and talk with world famous mushers like Lance Mackey and Dee Dee Jonrowe. We had the privilege of visiting the beautiful home of artists Jon and Jona Van Zyle. One of the conference days was an open day to visit a site of our choosing as we completed a fun challenge project. Our final experience was an introduction to the National Guard’s Drug and Alcohol Reduction program, which is available for your school through your state’s National Guard. I will write more on this later.

This conference, my friends, is not your average teacher’s conference. It provides once in a life time experiences and refreshes the soul to prepare you for a fresh start next school year. It is a wonderful opportunity to exchange ideas with teachers from across the country. If you haven’t attended this conference, start making plans to include the Iditarod Summer Teacher’s Camp in your schedule for next year. I will be looking forward to seeing you there.

Top 10 ways to plan for this conference next summer.
1. Open a vacation account at your local credit union.
2. Spend some of that moldy money you have socked away in your secret Swiss Bank account.
3. Save all your pocket change in a 5 gallon water cooler jug.
4. Put 20 dollars in a bank account every week for the next year.
5. Stop at laundr0mats and check the washer, dryers and coin returns in soda machines for change.
6. Play the lottery.
7. Don’t go on that stupid family vacation that everyone hates.
8. Don’t waste your time and money going to the beach and renting that condo.
9. Run the family station wagon with the bald tires and muffler dragging the ground for one more year. (Be like Uncle Buck. He’s cool. You can be cool also!)
10. Just do it!!!!!!! You’ll be glad you did.
11. And one more thing, when making reservations, remember United breaks guitars!!!