Teacher Ranger Teacher 2012 - Tracy Hall

Sandy Hook Stories

Wow! What a beautiful start to a new adventure. Sandy Hook still manages to take my breath away. Standing here on the observation deck at North Beach directly across from N.Y. Harbor I have a bird's eye view of the N.Y. skyline. The weather right now is just about perfect, sunny, breezy and warm. Note I say warm cause earlier it was hot as Hades, the best I can describe it. Today is Saturday; I checked in with Jennifer, signed some paperwork and got the key to my room.

Sunday July 1st 2012

I found out this morning that I had moved into the wrong building, so first order of business was to move all my stuff to the proper place. I was only too happy to do that because the correct room is much nicer, I even have my own little air conditioning unit very cool. Again it is smoking hot just stand outside and you sweat. I spent my first morning looking over the materials for the TRT program and also reconnecting with the other rangers. Real glad to be back at Sandy Hook and I'm looking forward to working with the crew here. I have to say the other rangers are always extremely helpful and welcoming. I spent the afternoon working with Steve and Brian at the Mortar Battery. I went on several tours with the guys and also spent some time reading over the materials Tom Hoffman the park historian had put together about the place. My initial reaction to the Mortar Battery was it was a dark, dank and scary place, but after reading about it and going on the tours I can appreciate its historical significance. I

July 2nd 2012

My schedule today had me off in the morning, but I had told Tom H that I would meet him at nine to brainstorm an idea I had for a Jr. Ranger program using the Mortar Battery. I also took this opportunity to complete my computer training. I spent the afternoon shadowing Tyrone and helping him to finish re-doing the bulletin boards for the month and checking on the beach wheelchairs. Later that evening I went on a bike tour of Ft. Hancock with Mike. I learned that there used to be another smaller lighthouse here at the Hook. I showed Mike and the visitors the osprey nest in the chimney of one of the houses on the bay. There seems to be 3 babies in the nest I plan to keep an eye on them and watch their progress.

July 3rd 2012

Wow busy day today, helped with the Jr. Ranger program Marine Invaders. It was good because I really like this program and also because none of the other rangers had ever really done this program, but I had so I was able to kind of lead it. The program went well only problem was that it was high tide and we had trouble finding many crabs. We spoke with Jen about that and she said she would note that this particular program has some time requirements. Spent the afternoon at the lighthouse went up on a couple tours to refresh my memory and was able to take the last tour up myself. Overall I had a great busy day.

July 4th 2012

Today started off wet and rainy, thank goodness it cleared up and the sun came out. Spent the morning doing research for an idea I have for a LP. I plan on using the Mortar Battery for a focal point. Thinking about how the gun crews worked together in such tight quarters and with such dangerous materials gave me an idea. I spent the afternoon roving on my bike, rode out to North Beach, Gunnison and all along the bike path to Fishing Beach and beyond. Boy was it ever hot today also pretty busy because of the holiday. I sat on the porch at HH in the evening and watched the fireworks. It was really cool because there were fireworks happening in two towns on the bay. It turned out to be a great show and great place to watch it all.

July 5th 2012

I worked the Jr. Jr. Ranger program this morning with Brian and Nelson. Unfortunately, the weather was rainy and cloudy so not many kids showed up for the program. I did spend some time cleaning out the tub that contains the materials for the Marine Invaders program. The afternoon was spent talking with the park historian, Tom Hoffman and Ranger Tyrone about my LP idea. Tom is an incredible source of information and was very helpful. He also provided me with documents and diagrams that will be a great help with my program plan.

July 8th 2012

Got back this morning around 8:30 and spent several hours researching Mortar Battery LP also looked at the website recommended by the NPS on working backwards. Got a start writing some of the items from the design including enduring understanding, essential questions, learning and teaching sequence? I feel this LP will be perfect for grades 5-8. I worked at the MB this afternoon with rangers Steve and Tom M. I spent some time going through the battery again. My LP is going to be a type of scavenger hunt through the battery. Still working out the logistics of it all, I am also concerned about the safety issues. I didn't get to ride my bike today after work because I had to take it into town to the bike shop to fix the pedal. It is very hot again today. I spent the evening at North Beach as you can tell it is one of my favorite spots here (I have quite a few) trying my hand at sketching. There are some wonderful scenes to sketch.

July 9th 2012

I got up bright and early this morning. Little disappointed because found out last night it is going to be almost $100 to fix my bike. It's a bummer but the bike trails here are fantastic and I don't want squander the opportunity. I was scheduled to go canoeing this morning but one of the other rangers had an emergency so I filled in for him and covered the desk at the Visitors Center. I really like working at the Visitors Center, early this summer while I was working the desk with another ranger I met a famous actress and her family. She was a regular on the show Law and Order one of my favorite shows so of course I recognized her. She was incognito so I didn't make a big fuss about it and I think she appreciated that. I spent the afternoon working at H.Q. on my lesson plans.

July 10th 2012

I spent last evening at the Mt. Mitchell Overlook, what a beautiful place. I took some photos and marveled at the view. No matter what, Sandy Hook still awes me. I think about the folks that live here all the time and wonder do you ever get tired, or oblivious to the surroundings. It continues to be new to me and working here is phenomenal. This morning I worked with rangers Steve and Nelson on the piping plover program. It was good that all of us were there because there were around 16-20 kids in the program. The program went really well and I think the kids learned a lot as well as had a good time. I suggested to the other rangers a few ways improving the program such as to start at the VC because viewing the film on the little tiny screen was weird, especially when they have the big screen at the VC and the film is already looping there. I also suggested instead of trying to let the kid's use the post diggers which are huge have the kids dig with their hands or small shovels which is what happened today anyway. Those post diggers are too much for kids to handle. I think overall the program went well. I spent the afternoon doing Visitors Survey with Nelson at beach Lot D.

July 15th 2012

Today is the first day of my third week here at Sandy Hook. One thing to note is that my kids came up and spent the day at the beach a first road trip for them. I was able to introduce them around and also to take them on a tour of the lighthouse. They loved it and are planning to come back next week.

This past Thursday before I went home had a meeting with the ladies from Jamaica Bay and phone conference with Dan Mahring. He wanted to hear our lesson plan ideas. I outlined for him my lesson plan using the Mortar Battery as a focal point, he had lots of questions. I told him about the information I had gotten from Tom Hoffman, park historian and how I wanted to create an educational program based on the early gun crews of the Mortar Battery. One thing I had noted in my research is that the gun crews had to work closely and carefully together under dangerous and stressful conditions. I decided to use that as a backdrop for the program. Tom had also told me about and I read about how the crews competed within their own ranks for recognition. I decided to use the patch the crews worked toward as a program title E=Excellence in Gunnery/ I thought it would be cool if the kids simulate some of the activities of the real gun crews and in essence try to win their own E patches. Jen liked my idea, couldn't really get a fix on what Dan thought but I am going forward with my plan.

July 16th 2012

I went seining with Steve and a group from E Newark; in fact I am scheduled to spend the next couple days with this particular school. Today we had 2-3 graders and boy were they fun. The kids were excited, for many it was their first time to the shore. It is always great to introduce something new to kids and to watch their wonder and excitement. I spent the afternoon working on LP at HQ.

July 17th 2012

I had the opportunity to visit Jamaica Bay today with Jennifer. There was a teacher's workshop on birding and facilitating students through scientific inquiry. It was a very informative workshop and I must admit the osprey presentation was my favorite. The presenter was excellent and I could feel his passion for what he does. I am also very interested in ospreys or better yet birds of prey and spend many hours here at Sandy Hook watching them. I've been watching a particular nest here now since last year in one of the chimney's at Fort Hancock. He was able to answer some of my questions and also informed us of a website he has where throughout the school year we can keep up with his work. I'm very excited about it and plan to use it in the upcoming school year.

July 19th 2012

Yesterday and last evening there were thunderstorms; it's been wet and rainy for a few days. I have to admit the thunderstorms are one thing about Sandy Hook I do not like. The lightening here scares the bejesus out of me. You can very clearly see the lightning strikes out on the water. It rains so hard sometimes and you can just see the ocean churning and crashing into the shore. It's all quite humbling, it just reminds me how really powerless we are to nature. I spent the am in the office, spoke with Jen about my plans and gave her a rough draft. I went out in the afternoon to do the Visitors Survey again with Nelson. I also got a chance to share the pictures with Jennifer from when my students came to Sandy Hook. I admit they were great photos you can just see how excited my students were and how much they learned as well as how much fun they had. I told her about my NPS presentation at my school and the slideshow I had put together for it. I plan to share it with her. It was well received at my school and I ended up having to do the presentation again for the younger kids.

July 22 2012

I got back early today and spent the first half of the day doing research for another program I've been thinking about on photography. I also took the opportunity to take the Interpretative Fundamentals free class being offered, again my bud Ranger Nelson told me about it. I took the class and the test to receive credit and received a 90%, go me! I spent the afternoon at the Mortar Battery. The weather is really nice today cooler than it's been. The LH and the MB are both slow today I'm guessing because the weather is so nice most people are probably hanging out at the beach. I also spent some time talking with Tom H. today in particular about working at the NPS as a seasonal, Tom encouraged me to apply this year and I'm going to look into it Nelson had also suggested that I should. Jennifer has mentioned that she like having teachers on her staff and it makes perfect sense because much of what we do translates into what interpretation is all about.

July 23rd 2012

I got to go canoeing with Brian and Tyrone this morning. The weather was perfect and we had one large group of all family members. It was a good trip and I really enjoyed beachcombing at Skelton Island I think the guys call it. Found some unique shells and egg casings and horseshoe crab molts to share with my students. I spent the afternoon at HQ working on my new program idea on photography. I told Jen a little about it and she liked the idea so I will continue to work on it.

July 24th 2012

This morning Jen informed me that I did not need to help with the Jr. Ranger program she had called in reinforcements from outside to help with the firefighting program. Alison came to see me and wanted to know about the Mortar Battery program I am working on. She also liked my ideas and said she is also working on a program about the guns and batteries here. Also Jen asked me to speak with Mike Mason about the items I need made for my program. The guys around here call him McGuyver; Mike seemed to think the items will be no problem to make. I also talked to Alison about why there is no travelling trunk for the Fort. It would be good if there were uniforms but for the male and the female troops, guns, rations etc... In the trunk it would be a great tool to teach about WWII. She agreed, and we discussed some other program ideas.

July 25 2012

I worked at the VC in the am. I spent the afternoon in the office working on my new program idea. The new program is an educational program on nature and wildlife photography. I got the idea because in my down time, I have been reading the many National Geographic magazines that I have. I am always so impressed by the photography. Of course in my usual fashion I begin to wonder how do you become a wildlife photographer for a magazine like National Geographic, that of course led to the my idea for a photography program. Visitors could come with their digital cameras and as a group visit several sites here and take photos. There is such a variety of ecosystems within the park. By chance the other night I was sitting in one of my favorite spots and noticed a woman setting up her camera equipment. We started talking and I mentioned to her my idea about a photography program and she mentioned that she might be interested in helping to facilitate it. I plan to write up the program and meet with her soon. The afternoon was spent doing the Visitors Survey with ranger Tyrone at the Fishing Beach and Lot E.

July 26th 2012

The weather is a little cloudy this morning; I am scheduled to work with rangers Brian and Nelson on the Jr Jr Ranger program, Birds and Beaks. Unfortunately it started raining really hard and also lighting (you know how I feel about the storms out here). Again not many children showed up for the program because of the weather but for the few that did they enjoyed the program and learned a lot as well. Jen asked if I would assist one of the other rangers with a program idea and I am only too glad to be of service. I also had a casual meeting with Jen about my MB program and discussed some changes and additions to it.

July 29 2012

I got back this morning and spent the morning working on my two programs at HQ. I also spent some time speaking with one of the other rangers about his program ideas and helping him to formulate an activity that is appropriate. I spent the afternoon at the MB and actually gave my first tour all myself. I feel pretty confident and knowledgeable about the battery now that I have done so much research on it. It takes quite a bit of work to get it together for the tours, lanterns must be set up throughout and the picture displays must be placed throughout the battery. I am often amazed by the number of people that are interested in the batteries here. I have learned so much about the coastal defense here at Sandy Hook and find it to be very interesting and something prior to this I knew absolutely nothing about. I am so sure that many people right here in New Jersey know nothing about Sandy Hook and its military defense history. We had a small dinner party for all the interpretative staff at North Beach. I cooked for all the guys and girls just as a small token of my appreciation for making me feel very much at home here. It turned out really nice and everyone seemed to enjoy the food and company.

July 30st 2012

I worked this morning at the HH. It is one of my favorite places here. The HH is an old home built in the 1890's that served as living quarters for officers stationed here at Sandy Hook. The home has been completely restored to the era at which the fort was busiest which was during WWII. All the fixtures and furniture and various items are from that particular era. It is a beautiful place that speaks of a different era and time in our country's history. A special tour group came over from Rockaway, New York to visit the park and many stopped by to visit the HH. Several of the visitors were old enough to actually remember that time and were happy to take a little trip down memory lane. The afternoon was spent at HQ working on programs.

July 31st 2012

Today was a great day! I went on a bit of a field trip with Jennifer, Tom H. and our SCA student Sara. We went to visit the latest addition to the NPS which is the Great Falls waterfall in Patterson, New Jersey. It was fabulous who would have ever thunk that there would or could be a waterfall in the middle of a bustling city. The newest addition to the Park Service is a beautiful site. I was most impressed by the group of young people that gave us the tour. The kids all belong to an organization called the Urban Youth Corps. This impressive group of young people helps maintain and support the park. They were instrumental in helping to realize the dream of making Great Falls a part of the NPS. I had an opportunity to speak with them personally and well as listen attentively to the presentation by the director of their group. What a wonderful organization and what an incredible service these young people are providing in helping to bring life to their own spot in the world. Bravo to these youngsters and it would be wonderful to see this type of community based organization grow and take place in some of the other urban areas so much in need of renewal. I can think of many areas in New Jersey that could benefit from such a positive youth organization Camden, Trenton etc….. Ranger Nelson stopped by to say goodbye, he's on his way back to Tenn. School starts real soon for him. I will miss Nelson he is a great ranger and I consider him to be a great mentor. He also started his park service career as a TRT. I tell him often that I want to be like him when I grow up. This evening I hung out at the wooden overlook across from the VC writing and just chilling out and I kept hearing what sounded like bagpipes. Well I finally got myself up and followed the music and behold right on the beach were a group bagpipers. I spent an hour or so listening to them what a cool surprise.


August 1, 2012

I spent the morning working on LP for both programs tweaking what I have already and making a few changes suggested by Jennifer. I covered the VC for lunch and then spent the afternoon working with ranger Tyrone on his program idea. His ideas are very good he just basically needs help putting his ideas down on paper and in the proper format. I am starting to feel a little sad because my time is slowly coming to an end here. I must admit I have truly fallen in love with Sandy Hook. I have to say being a ranger is the fulfillment of a lifetime dream and I am really proud to be a part of the team here at Sandy Hook.

August 2, 2012

I worked on my photography program this morning in the am at HQ and I gave a rough draft to Jennifer. She is going to look over it and give me feedback. I also told her that I had set up a meeting with the photographer to discuss the program and she thought it a good idea as well. I just wanted to make sure this was someone that would be an asset to the program and someone that would be committed to making it a success. I finished my day working with one of the other rangers at the VC.

August 5th 2012

This is the start of my next to the last week here at Sandy Hook and I'm feeling just a little blue about it. I worked in the am. typing up my journal for Jennifer. I was scheduled to work at the MB again but ended up filling in at the HH because of a mix-up. It's no problem because I love the place. An extended African-American family stopped by late in the afternoon and surprisingly enough they had brought along a great grandfather. In conversation with them we learned that he was a former soldier that had during WWII actually come through Fort Hancock on his way overseas. This particular gentleman was 92 years old. We were really impressed with his knowledge and his incredible recall. One of the other rangers called Tom H. the park historian to talk about taping an interview with him. I was really impressed with his stories and also the fact that his memories at 92 are pretty clear. What a treasure he must be to his family I mentioned to his great granddaughter that their family should record his story not many buffalo soldiers are still around.

August 6th 2012

I started today by going canoeing with rangers Brian and Tyrone and as usually it was lovely. We had a great group and most of the visitors were experienced which help a lot. It was a bit choppy but once we got past the area where the concrete bunkers are located we were fine. We spent time at Skelton Island beachcombing and speaking to the visitors about the birds and various shells and such that they found. All around it was a very pleasant trip and I think the visitors had a wonderful time. I helped out a bit at the lighthouse in the afternoon because it was very busy for Tuesday.

August 7th 2012

Today I worked with rangers Mike and Steve at the lighthouse there was a special tour for a group of young people from a day camp. We were expecting older kids and were surprised that they were 4 and 5 year olds. We had to improvise because many of the youngsters were a bit too small to climb all the way to the top. We worked it out with the teachers and overall the kids had a good time anyway. Mike and I took the older kids to the lens house while Steve entertained the smaller kids at the Keeper's Quarters and the Mortar Battery. I was hanging out for lunch with the guys at the Lighthouse and even before they opened at one people was lining up to sign up for tours, they were swamped. I hung around and helped out again by taking a few tours up myself. It helps when it's very busy there to have an extra set of legs. There are 95 steps to the top and doing that 4-5 times a day is the best kind of exercise. Of course I am only too glad to pitch in. Tonight I'm going to meet the photographer to discuss the photography program in Neptune. I hope all goes well.

August 8th 2012

Wow! Countdown to my last week here at Sandy Hook and I admit I am getting a little sad. I spoke with Jennifer this morning about my meeting with the photographer which went really well. She is a very nice person and I feel she will be a definite asset to the program. She is very involved in community service in her town and excited about the opportunity to help facilitate a program here at Sandy Hook. I gave Jennifer all of her contact information and also a copy of her proposal for the program. I worked some with ranger Tyrone on his program finishing up and worked in the afternoon on my journal and also helped out at the lighthouse some. It was very busy again today.

August 9th 2012

Today I'm off in the am because I am going seining this evening with the ALS (American Littoral Society) and ranger Steve. I worked on my journal a bit and also pitched in at the lighthouse with Conrad and Steve it was very busy it seems to be quite the attraction as of late. It helps when there are 3 people to do the tours cause 95 steps up and down x 3 or 4 times makes for very tired legs. I also like giving lighthouse tours most visitors are interesting because people have all different kind of reasons for coming out here. It always amazes me the number of teachers I meet here at the park. When I tell them I am a teacher and working for the summer many become very interested and most feel like I do that this has got to be the coolest summer job of all.

August 10 2012

Today I stayed over an extra day because time for the BIG meeting. I met with Jennifer, Dan and on the phone with Nanette about our park lesson plans. Must admit I was a little worried. Mostly because I want to do a good job and represent well for Sandy Hook.

I must admit overall things went fairly well they seem to be pleased with my plans and with Nanette's so that makes me feel pretty good. I only have a few minor revisions to make and a few extra things to add. It should not take much to complete the things suggested and I plan to finish up by Monday so that I can send the revision to Dan to make sure we meet the 15th deadline for TRT plans.

August 12 2012

Oh well today starts my last week at Sandy Hook. It's amazing how quickly the time has flown. I got a late start this morning because of car trouble. It was a trip when I got here because the park was closed. I couldn't even get into the place the road coming in was jammed packed. I did manage to get past the traffic jam and speak to a L.E. officer who moved the cones finally and let me in to get to work. This is only the third time in my recollection that the park has actually closed because all the lots were full. It was madness near the entrance people were not happy about the park being closed. It's a beautiful day and everyone is out trying to enjoy. I must say Sandy Hook is a great place to spend a carefree day on the beach. I worked on my LP revision most of the afternoon. I am working on pre and post visit activities for my MB LP. I had some ideas already just need to put them on paper and get Jen or Tom to look them over.

August 13 2012

Today I again went canoeing with rangers Brian and Tyrone. We had 15 or more visitors; several had never been canoeing before. We gave them a quick lesson on handling the boat and also on using the oars properly and off we went. It was a fairly calm day on the water. We rowed out to Skeleton Island and beachcombed with the visitors. There were several children and we took the time out to show them various shells and birds and also horseshoe crab molts of all sizes. It was a great trip and the visitors had a good time. The afternoon was spent putting the final touches on the lighthouse Jr. Ranger program.

August 14 2012

I was scheduled to come in late today because I will be accompanying Tom H. on his battery tour this evening at seven. I spent the afternoon pulling everything together and e-mailing it to Dan. I am fairly pleased with my programs and look forward to seeing them put them into action here at Sandy Hook. This evening I helped Tom H. with his battery of the week program. The tour tonight was of the Mortar Battery of which I thought I knew a great deal about. First off there was a good turnout approximately 20-23 visitors attended. The tour was excellent I was impressed by Mr. Hoffman's presentation and boy was I ever wrong about how much about the battery I actually knew. I learned so much more last night. His presentation even gave me an idea for another way in which I could include a math angle to my MB lesson plans using geometry. I spoke with both Tom and Jennifer about my idea and both feel it is something we can add to the program at a later date. My last days here I will be able to pit in a bit more because most of my paperwork has been completed. It has truly been a good summer and I look forward to continuing to be a part of the crew here at Sandy Hook.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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