Parks As Classrooms offers a variety of programs for North Carolina middle school students.
How would you like to have a waterfall in your classroom, or seven hundred and fifty white tailed deer, or a million blooming wildflowers, or the largest collection of historic log buildings in the east? You can have all of these resources and more when you bring your students to a Parks as Classrooms program at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
It only makes sense that a national park that is known internationally for its spectacular biological diversity and historic preservation also be recognized as the perfect living lab and classroom.
At Great Smoky Mountains National Park we serve over fifteen thousand students a year in a K through 12 curriculum that’s very hands on and it progresses from awareness, to knowledge, to stewardship. Students learn to appreciate the wonders of nature and heritage while learning in the very heart of the resource. We teach the state mandated standards of learning using park resources to meet the teacher’s classroom goals.
The programs are developed jointly by teachers and park educators and they include pre-visit, post-visit activities, along with assessment tools.
The current middle school offerings in North Carolina are designed to have students assist with on-going inventory and monitoring studies. Using student groups, the park can collect data that gives park managers valuable information on target species or habitats. Education park rangers have examined the North Carolina Standard Course of Study to develop programs that meet the needs of you, the teacher, while informing students about how issues like air pollution, climate change and exotic species impact park resources.
All of these studies have internet databases and teacher guides that allow classes to extend the field trip back in the classroom. Students can ask and answer their own questions of data that has been collected over the years or teachers can use the guide to work through data analyses developed by park rangers.
Our 6th grade program is offered at both Purchase Knob , near Waynesville, NC and Oconaluftee , near Cherokee, NC. This program has students really digging into soil . They examine soil properties such as particle size, color, and moisture; the pH of the soil and the important food webs associated with the top layer of soil. After learning about soil health and threats to our soil from air pollution, students have an opportunity to inventory soil life .
Our 7 th grade program focuses on the impacts of air pollution on high elevation ecosystems and the role weather patterns play in how air pollution moves in our mountains. Programs are offered at Purchase Knob and Clingman’s Dome on the Tennessee-North Carolina border. 7th grade activities vary depending on the location and time of year. Students may: rate the amount of visible symptoms on plant species sensitive to ground level ozone in a biomonitoring garden, monitor the changes on lichens growing on trees which are sensitive to sulfur in the air and acid deposition or participate in an inventory of snails which are indicators of calcium in the system that is possibly being depleted by acid deposition.
The 8th grade program , focusing on biodiversity of streams and water quality, is offered at Deep Creek, Oconaluftee or Purchase Knob. Depending on the location, students may: investigate the chemical attributes and aquatic macroinvertebrates in streams participate in an activity called “Who Polluted Our River?” that examines point source and non-point source pollution, or collect data for a salamander monitoring study that is tracking the timing of life cycle events, which is the study of phenology, as well as impacts from acid deposition.
Parks as Classrooms programs usually run from 10am to 1pm with lunch in between activities in locations around the park where restrooms are accessible. Group size is typically 60 students with chaperones required.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is able to offer the Parks as Classrooms programs free of charge through the generous support of Great Smoky Mountains Association, Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and a variety of other donors.
We often have funding to off set transportation costs. We are always adding new program offerings; currently we are working on programs on climate change and archaeology. So check out our website for the latest offerings and information on how to sign up your class.