Teacher-Ranger-Teacher Blog - 2008
July 9, 2008. Hello, my name is Nancy, and I am very excited to be a part of the Teacher-Ranger-Teacher Program (TRT) at Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine, this summer. The TRT program is designed to help teachers explore the national park and bring a clear understanding and appreciation of park resources back to our students and colleagues. We have been provided with great resources and opportunities to learn and explore the park. Throughout the summer, we will be given time to develop lessons and activities related to the park that connect to our local school curriculums.
While many teachers are spending their summer inside doing school-based summer work and attending professional development workshops, I am beginning my second week in the TRT program here at Acadia. I arrived at the park two weeks later than I had expected due to the 14 snow days that kept me in school much later planned. I teach here in Maine, but on the western side of the state where we had tons of snow this year. The two other TRTs stationed here in Acadia, Dwight from Missouri and Renay from New York City, have been here for several weeks. They were able to take part in the seasonal ranger orientation and training with many of the other new and returning workers.
To work at this park, there is a great deal of information to learn with regards to the historical, cultural, geographical, and geological aspects of the park. As TRTs, we have begun to gather this information in several ways. The most effective approaches for me have been through informal conversations with other employees and getting out and "experiencing" the park. I never would have believed that there is so much information here just waiting to be shared with anyone visiting the park. Did you know that Cadillac Mountain, at 1530 feet, is the highest mountain on the eastern seaboard north of Brazil? Also, from the top of Cadillac Mountain you can be the first in this country to see the sun during some times of the year (of course I have yet to be up early enough to do so). I can't wait to learn more about this park and the National Park Service. I know that I am in for a great summer working here at Acadia. I am currently trying to plan my first boat cruise around the islands to learn more about the ocean that surrounds us.
Look for weekly updates on this blog from Renay, Dwight, and me.
July 16, 2008. Hi, my name is Dwight, and I have the fantastic privilege to be part of the Teacher-Ranger-Teacher Program (TRT) here at Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine for nine weeks this summer. The TRT program is a professional development opportunity through the National Park Service for teachers to learn first-hand about our national parks and to share information and academic resources with our students and school district when we return to the classroom this fall. I teach high school biology in Rolla, Missouri and learning about the unique plants and animals along Maine’s coast is a dream come true.
The first couple of weeks were spent learning about the geology, flora, fauna, and cultural and historical aspects of Acadia National Park; this was done via bus tours, interpretive hikes, boat cruises, seminars, and a host of other instructional avenues. We were truly submersed with information that helped to prepare us for interactions with future visitors to the park.
I have enjoyed learning about research that occurs within the park by both park staff and visiting collegiate researchers. Last week I assisted NPS staff in a stream monitoring study and took part in a two-day Leave No Trace trainers course while camping and hiking around Schoodic Mountain. I also enjoy giving weekly interpretive ranger programs and meeting a variety of park guests while working at the visitor center. As you can see, each day brings new and exciting opportunities, and I look forward to what lies ahead.
Look for additional updates on this blog from Renay, Nancy, and me as Acadia’s Teacher-Ranger-Teachers.
July 24, 2008. Hey, my name is Renay, and I am one of the four Teacher-Ranger-Teachers at Acadia National Park this summer. I have wanted to visit Acadia for a long time. Having the chance to turn my visit into a professional learning experience has been a dream come true. I have had the opportunity to learn a great deal about the National Park Service while being immersed in the beauty of Acadia.
Going on ranger programs, working with researchers, attending meetings and communicating with visitors has shown me just a glimpse of the enormous work that goes into running a national park. All of the people I have had the chance to meet exhibit great dedication and commitment to the stewardship of the land. I have learned so much from the knowledgeable staff at Acadia. Everyone has been welcoming and cooperative. I have many people to thank for helping me to prepare for my programs.
By accepting this position, I hoped to gain knowledge in different areas of science that I could bring back to my classroom. Preparing for the Animals of Acadia program, conducting guided glacial geology tours, and going on hikes and walks has broadened my scientific knowledge.
Today I had the opportunity to assist in park research and lake monitoring with Beth and Meg. Yesterday all of the TRTs met at St. Croix site. We were given a wonderful interpretive tour by Meg. Later, we learned traditional basket weaving of the Passamaquoddy tribe given by Frances. Jim escorted us on a trip to the Canadian St. Croix site. The trip was sweetened by stopping at Ganong Chocolate Factory.
Look for weekly updates on this blog from my new Teacher-Ranger-Teacher friends.
July 30, 2008. Welcome back to our TRT blog. This is my last week as a TRT and I have been very busy trying to take in all that Maine and Acadia National Park have to offer during my limited time left. I deeply enjoyed the road trip up to the St. Croix International sites on both the U.S. and Canadian sides on July 23. As indicated from Renay’s blog, Meg and her staff allowed us to be immersed in the history and culture that has made the site unique and special. It was nice to spend time with our St. Croix TRT counterpart, Jim, and share our summer experiences in this fabulous program.
This last Saturday on my day off I had the opportunity to learn about lobstering first-hand from a multi-generation lobsterman on Little Cranberry Island. Missouri’s state quote is “The Show Me State”; I was given the opportunity to experience this fishery and unique way of life from one of Maine’s best lobstermen. I helped stuff bait bags with salted herring while the crew of the Barbara Ann checked close to 300 traps. Lobstering is hard and fast work by individuals with dedicated conservation practices to ensure the fishery stays strong and vibrant for decades to come.
Sunday morning was spent riding with the park law enforcement division via boat to remote islands to post signs and check usage. The early afternoon was occupied with cruising Jordan Pond via canoe and providing visitors a friendly face to ask for assistance to area resources and encouraging safe water usage as well as leave no trace principles. There are some really cool jobs in law enforcement!
My last five days are filled with working the visitor center, observing a visiting researcher doing mercury soil sampling on park property at various sites, being a tiny part in a new documentary film, and giving my last interpretive ranger program.
I have been deeply impressed with the high level of skills and expertise that NPS employees bring to our national parks. Everyone I have met this summer truly loves their job and strives to ensure every visitor has a great experience enjoying these public lands. Get outside this summer with your family and enjoy all that the National Park Service has to offer!
August 6, 2008. Hello, it’s Nancy again. I have now been in the park for five weeks. There is not enough space on your computers for me to tell about all of the wonderful experiences that I have been having. However, since Dwight and Renay have been keeping you informed over the last few weeks, I will share some of my recent endeavors.
Last week I was able to assist Meg and Bill (resource management staff) with bacteria monitoring at Sand Beach and two of the freshwater locations in the park. What a strange feeling to walk in the water with hip waders on; I guess I will not be taking up fly fishing anytime soon. I was quite pleased to learn that there are no problems with the bacteria levels in any of the waters that we tested, although I was somewhat concerned upon learning that most of the bacteria in the waters comes from human waste!?! After the water testing, Bill (the park ecologist) was nice enough to give us a tour of the air quality testing station, where we were able to talk with some of the visiting researchers. Thanks Bill and Meg.
We also said good-bye to Dwight last week. We sent him off with three separate going away gatherings. The most notable of the three was the "Adios, Dwight" Mexican dinner. Who would think that a bunch of park rangers would be such great chefs. Unfortunately for Dwight, he will be back in his classroom this Friday while Renay and I still have a few more weeks enjoying this outdoor classroom. Have a great school year, Dwight; we miss you already!
I have moved from Mount Desert Island to the Schoodic Education Adventure (SEA) location at Schoodic Point. While here, I will be attending as well as assisting Kate and Janet with teacher workshops. Just when I thought my summer learning was going to slow down, I find myself anxious for the workshops to begin so that I can continue to build this excellent experience.
Did I mention how much I have enjoyed this summer? Renay and I will continue to blog our summer experience for the next two weeks, so please stay tuned.
August 18, 2008. Well, we have finished our summer TRT assignments. Renay and I gave our end-of-season presentations last week. Renay presented to park staff, and I presented at the Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) to a teacher workshop as well as a few park staff members. It was the first attempt for both of us at creating PowerPoint presentations (another new learning experience). In preparing the presentation, I found myself amazed at the depth of this experience. There are so many aspects of the National Park System.
This list could go on and on; however, I will end here. All of this was possible while we were working in the Education District under the direction of Cynthia, who is fabulous to work with.
I leave this professional development experience armed with lots of new knowledge across many content areas, relevant and practical activities, and a variety of new teaching strategies. I am excited about bringing my experiences back to my students.
This has been a wonderful experience both professionally and personally. I wish my new friends Dwight and Renay the best of luck with their school years. I will be anxious to read about your national park connections here on this TRT blog throughout the school year.
So long for now.
December 27, 2008. As a result of my TRT position, I learned of Acadia’s SEA (Schoodic Educational Adventure) program. After a brief discussion, my sixth-grade teaching partner and I took on the challenge of bringing our students to Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park for a two-night, three-day educational field trip. We were somewhat skeptical about going for so long but felt that it was a great opportunity that we should not pass up. Boy, were we right. The trip was absolutely FABULOUS. Our students had the time of their lives, and so did their teachers.
We were busy from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The kids went through a series of wonderful learning activities. While tidepooling, they found plenty of crabs, mussels, sea urchins, and even a sea cucumber. They could have spent the whole day pawing through the many seaweeds making new discoveries. The students learned mapping skills through activities on a very impressive, floor-sized map designed and created by the SEA staff and volunteers. In addition, using the coordinates from GPS unit, they used computers to make a map highlighting some local landmarks. Habitat hikes, geology walks, an art class featuring scientific drawing, and a night hike kept the kids engaged and eager to learn each day.
Many of the students came away from the trip feeling excited about making connections back in the classroom and inspired with ideas for new career opportunities. It has been more than a month since we made the trip, yet when the students talk about it, it’s still easy to detect the excitement in their voices and actions.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Acadia National Park offers scholarship money to help schools pay for the trip. I highly recommend that teachers take advantage of this excellent opportunity for students in grades K–8. You will not be disappointed.
Happy New Year!
February 17, 2009. Greetings from Missouri.
Professional development should truly enhance your enthusiasm, knowledge base, techniques, and communication skills in your career. The Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program at Acadia fulfills each of these criteria and has enhanced my instruction this school year in various ways.
One of the most positive impacts has been incorporating a more interpretive style of lecture format that pulls the students into the storyline of the particular topic. This makes the students feel closer to the topic, and it helps them to retain the material they will be tested on. I have incorporated more props and demonstrations that utilize as many of the senses as possible to help develop a lasting memory connection to the subject.
During an ecology lesson on burning fossil fuels, I included video clips and photos from when I accompanied University of Maine researchers who visited Acadia and took mercury samples from various park sites this past July. The majority of mercury in atmospheric deposition occurs from burning fossil fuels and being transported downwind. Students had to utilize principles from chemistry, hydrology, and biology to explain what was happening during this type of ecological disturbance. My students then took a look at mercury levels downwind of regional coal-fired power plants here in the Midwest and steps to reduce the mercury deposition rate.
Leave No Trace principles have been a common thread incorporated into the ecology sections with activities designed for students to evaluate their own impact on our surroundings while enjoying the outdoors. On April 25, my students will do a stream cleanup of a creek that flows through our town.
During National Park Week in April, I will visit a number of elementary classrooms dressed in the full interpretive ranger uniform; I look forward to sharing with these younger students the wonders that awaits them in our national parks. I will be sharing photos of these visits in my next blog.
- Dwight Warnke
May 11, 2009. Greeting from Missouri.
National Park Week and Earth Day fell between the dates of April 20–25 and proved to be a great time to share with local elementary, middle, and junior high school children about our national parks and things they can do as stewards of our natural treasures. I did thirteen presentations during two days and thoroughly enjoyed sharing photos and information about various national parks across the United States, six types of park rangers, animal life within NPS parks, and Leave No Trace principles. I have taught high school youth for 24 years and love teaching science and biology, but it was a whole new world for me to be in front of 89 first graders at once with their boundless energy and enthusiasm!
On Saturday, April 25, more than fifty high school students gathered to pick up trash and debris in a 1¼-mile section of a stream that flows through our town. We were fortunate to have good weather, and everyone came away with a good feeling about giving back to our community a cleaner stream.
The last day of school for me is May 19, and students and staff alike are looking forward to another great summer to relax, enjoy the outdoors, and perhaps take a vacation. I hope you have a chance to visit one of our national parks this summer and explore for yourself the beauty, geology, and biology that awaits you!