Local teachers and student become park rangers at Smoky Mountains

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. (Source: GSMNP)

GATLIBNURG (WATE) – Great Smoky Mountains Park officials announced the completion of two unique summer programs engaging selected high school students and teachers as park rangers.

The Teachers in Parks and the High School Student Intern programs are six-week paid work experiences where participants learn about the resources of the park through on-site training exercises that enable them to perform ranger duties. Participants will complete the programs just before the new school year begins, allowing them to return to the classroom with a wealth of knowledge and experience gained from a summer working with rangers in a national park.

“These programs are mutually beneficial,” said Susan Sachs, Education Coordinator for the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center located in the park. “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.

In partnership with American Conservation Experience, 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, preventative search and rescue, Archaeology, Appalachian history and park management.

Grants received from Alcoa, Friends of the Smokies license plate funds, Great Smoky Mountains Association and the federally-funded Youth Partnership Program expanded the two successful programs this summer. These funds supported four teachers and 24 high school students from Tennessee and North Carolina school systems.

The following high school students were selected for the program:

In North Carolina: Kat Casey and Addison Costa, Smokey Mountain High School; Marcus Logan, Oconaluftee Job Corps; Ali Keever, Samantha Rauch and Orion Holmberg, Cherokee High School; Austin Blankenship, Robbinsville High School; Kyra Mehaffey, Pisgah High School; Austin Shuler, Swain High School; Bella Weeks, Jackson County Early College; Kahawi’s, Salmon River Central Schools; Ashley Welch, Tuscola High School; Annie McDarris, Cary Academy; and Kayla Humphrey, Buncombe County Early College.

In Tennessee: Alex Leatherwood, Gatlinburg-Pittman High School; Andrew Christohper; L&N Stem Academy; Noah Pitts, Cocke County High School; Will Moore, The Kings Academy; Aaron Free, Carter High School; Thomas Newman II, The Kings Academy; Emily Hatcher, William Blount High School; Anna Raney, River’s Edge Christian Academy; Amber Watson, Seymour High School; Martina Junod, William Blount High School

The following teachers were selected for the program:

In North Carolina: Taylor Zimmerman, Smokey Mountain High School

In Tennessee: Debbie Kipp, Sevier County High School; Gary Ownby, Pi Beta Phi Elementary School; Sean Lares, White Pine School

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