Great Smoky Mountains Park officials announce the completion of two unique summer programs engaging selected high school students and teachers as park rangers. The Teacher-Ranger-Teacher and the High School Student Intern programs are six-week paid work experiences where participants learn a great deal about the park through on-site training exercises that enable them to perform ranger duties. Participants will complete the programs just in time for the new school year allowing them to return to the classroom with a wealth of knowledge and experience gained from a summer working with rangers in the park.
“These programs are mutually beneficial,” said the park’s Education Specialist Karen Ballentine. “The students and teachers get an in-depth study of resource education techniques, scientific methods, and field research to enhance their skills and talents, and, in turn, the park creates advocates through better understanding of and appreciation for the Smokies. Teachers will bring the knowledge into their classrooms and the interns will share their education and experience with the local community through their friends and family.”
During their time in the park, teachers work alongside park rangers in the field assisting with resource management activities and education programs. When not in the field, teachers are working with Resource Educators to develop elementary, middle, and high school curriculum for the popular Parks as Classrooms program.
Student interns, from different local high schools within the surrounding counties and communities, assist scientists and park staff with field research and education programs while exploring possible career opportunities. They get exposed to and gain knowledge about a variety of areas while working in the park, including wildlife biology, fisheries science, botany, forest and stream ecology, geology, Cherokee history and culture, Appalachian history, and park management.
The two successful programs were expanded this summer, thanks to a variety of public and private funding sources. Grants were received from the Verizon Foundation, the National Park Foundation’s Park Stewards program, and GlaxoSmithKline Foundation’s Ribbon of Hope fund through Friends of the Smokies and the federally-funded Youth Partnership Program (YPP) These funds supported six teachers and 23 high school students from Tennessee and North Carolina school systems. Additionally, the YPP grant supported four intern positions based out of Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont who assisted with summer camp and research projects.