C and O Canal ramps up outdoor education for Montgomery County students thanks to partner support

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News Release Date: September 3, 2014

Contact: Hollie Lynch, 301-491-0149

Potomac, Md. –On Wednesday, September 3, 2014 at 11:00, students from Chevy Chase, Maryland, were the first to experience the new curriculum-based canal boat ride aboard the Charles F. Mercer, a reproduction packet boat.

The students' classroom for the day was Lock 20, next to the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, future site of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O Canal) National Historical Park's growing curriculum-based education program, Canal Classrooms. Representatives of the Friends of the Historic Great Falls Tavern greeted the group and presented a $10,000 check to support the expansion of curriculum based programming at the park. It was an especially fitting location for the generous donation, since the Friends not only support the preservation of the historic Great Falls Tavern, but also led the fundraising campaign to acquire the Charles F. Mercer in 2006.

"We know this is a wonderful opportunity for the students of the Montgomery County schools to tie their classroom studies into the engineering of the canal and the history and environmental diversity of the Potomac Gorge and the Great Falls area," said President of the Friends Don Harrison. "We hope that what they learn here will spark their interest to return and bring their families and friends to see what the C&O Canal has to offer in the way of history, nature and recreation along the entire length of this National Park. It has so much to offer - biking, walking, camping, fishing, and kayaking."

The donation from the Friends will be used to help pilot new curriculum education programs for elementary, middle and high school students during the 2014-15 school year. New education programs were developed in partnership with Montgomery County Public Schools and feature a menu of options for teachers to select programs that vary in content and duration. Programs apply science processes learned in their classroom in a tangible way as students examine the concepts in a real-world setting. All programs identify with national and state curriculum standards and include pre/post visit materials.

"During their visit to the canal, students engaged in programs that bring science, history, and engineering to life in a meaningful, practical, and relevant way," said C&O Canal Park Ranger, Geoff Suiter. "Seeing the boat crew move the massive gates of Lock 20 provides understanding

of an early form of technology and engineering.Having a go at blowing a century-old boater's horn and examining canal-era toys encourages students to explore the similarities and differences between their lives and children who walked the canal towpath a century ago."

"The C&O Canal's engagement with tens of thousands of students every year is dependent upon strong partnerships," confirmed C&O Canal Superintendent Kevin Brandt, "the Friends of Historic Great Falls Tavern, a long standing park partner, has made the pilot of new education programs possible at Great Falls. Through these new programs we are excited to be engaging a large and diverse audience of students from throughout the Greater Washington area."

The C&O Canal's education plan focuses on building a sustainable program, which it hopes to attain, in part, through leveraging partnerships. The Park is well on their way, having already established a Transportation Scholarship Fund, which offers bus stipends to schools planning field trips, and begun piloting the Canal Classrooms Corps, which engages local retired teachers to assist in delivering education programs in the park.

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ABOUT THE FRIENDS OF THE HISTORIC GREAT FALLS TAVERN

The Friends of the Historic Great Falls Tavern is a non-profit, member supported organization dedicated to preserving the Historic Great Falls Tavern and other historic structures located in the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Originally founded in 1973, the Friends have engaged in a number of public/private partnerships including stewardship of the rehabilitation of the Tavern completed in 2000 and the building the replica canal packet boat, Charles S. Mercer currently sited on the canal at Lock 20 adjacent to the Tavern. In addition to these projects, The Friends sponsor seasonal and cultural events at the Tavern, organize historical excursions in the Park and adjacent canal towns;as well as keeping members informed as to ongoing preservation and conservation issues in the Park through a monthly newsletter. For further information about the Friends please contact: www.fhgft.org.

ABOUT THE C&O Canal:The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park preserves and interprets the historic and natural resources of the C&O Canal and provides over 5,000,000 visitors a year with many opportunities for recreation. For more information, visit the Park's website at www.nps.gov/choh.

ABOUT THE CANAL CLASSROOMS PROGRAM:The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park launched the Canal Classrooms education program in 2013. Founded on sustainable practices and strong partnerships, Canal Classrooms inspires life-long learning through hands-on, place-based educational programming that aligns with PK-12 curriculum standards. Education programs are available at a variety of park locations and include classroom extension lessons and STEM activities. For more information visit www.nps.gov/choh or email the Park at e-mail us.

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Last updated: April 10, 2015

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