“As classrooms were packed and cleaned an elite group of teachers were doing other things. The school year had come to a close but select teachers from North Carolina were preparing for the next adventure, exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains. These educators are a part of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ Educators of Excellence Program and will be spending over a week together in the North Carolina Mountains. Along with closing down their classrooms the notable nine— Wendy Hall, Stephanie Ingram, Amy Jordan, Sarah Laws, Lindsay Smith, Sarah Trinidad, Bill Wade, Nikki Walker, and myself– began preparations to explore the great outdoors. Sarah Laws used her creativity to create a flyer to promote the trip. The flyer contained information so that her students and others could follow her journey. Others collected camping gear, trekked along hiking trails, researched habitats, explored wildlife manuals, made lists, and tried to avoid reading all the articles about recent bear shenanigans.
Somehow the pending trip had me looking at nature in a new way. My morning walks became more of an outside classroom where the breeze felt different, the sounds of chirping birds became louder and various vegetation left me with a sense of wonder. Somehow just the thought of being in nature for an extended period of time, had initiated a greater appreciation of nature and the vibrant world around us. I can only imagine how much more this curiosity and delight will be heightened as we hike through the Blue Ridge Mountains. This sense of awe and wonder is what I desire to encapsulate and then share with my students, colleagues, and friends along the journey and into the upcoming school year. I am sure that I speak for the team when I say that we would love to have you travel with us via our blog and be a part of all the wonderful adventures yet to come. The Mountains are waiting.
~Talicia Smith, Science Teacher, Douglas Byrd Middle School, Cumberland County
“I am so looking forward to my time this summer as a part of the Blue Ridge Institute. I was talking and dreaming about it all through Spring Break when I backpacked on the Appalachian Trail for 4 days! Two of my friends and I hiked about ten miles a day and camped each night. It was fantastic to walk from Winding Stair Gap to the Nantahala Rec Center. While I did, I talked about all the natural aspects surrounding us that I would hopefully better understand after experiencing the Educators of Excellence program and learning from the experts. In addition, during this trip, I got my trail name. I was named, “Charmed” and it’s a fun story that you should feel free to ask me about sometime!
In addition, my foster child was moving with relatives at the end of the school year and his last request was for us to “hike a really big mountain.” So one weekend in May, we did the six miles to the top of Mount Mitchell for his final hike with our family! That’s the highest peak East of the Mississippi (6684 feet), so we were glad to fulfill his request together!
It will be great to connect with other teachers and learn about our amazing state of North Carolina over the course of nine days together immersed in nature.
~Wendy Hall, First Grade Teacher, Fairview Elementary School, Union County”
While we won’t be backpacking to get from point A to point B as we travel the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, teacher participants in our Institutes can expect numerous hikes, as well as camping in tents, and daily educational adventures as we meet researchers and experts in each location.