Teachers and students will head back to school with a wealth of knowledge and experience working this summer with Park Rangers in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Teacher Ranger Teacher and the High School Student Intern programs are each a six-week paid work experience for teachers and student interns. Both of these programs allow participants to learn a great deal about the Park through on-site training exercises that enable them to perform ranger duties.
“These programs are mutually beneficial,” said the Park’s Education Specialist Karen Ballentine. “For the students and teachers, they 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 friends.”
The two successful programs were expanded to double the number of participants this season thanks to a variety of public/private funding sources. Alcoa, Inc., Friends of the Smokies, Toyota, and two federal grants paid through the Youth Partnership Program and Parks as Classrooms supported 6 teachers and 13 high school students from Tennessee and North Carolina school systems.
During their time in the Park, teachers don a Park Ranger uniform and work alongside Park employees in the field dealing with resource management activities and resource education programs. In the office, teachers are assisting Resource Educators with program development for the popular Parks as Classrooms (PaC) program curriculum for elementary and middle schools and with new curriculum that will be used to expand the PaC program into high school.
Interns assist scientists and Park staff with field research and education projects and interpretive programs while exploring possible career opportunities. They get exposed to and gain knowledge on a variety of areas while working in the Park–wildlife biology, botany, forest ecology, geology, Cherokee history and culture, Appalachian history, and Park management.
The teachers in Tennessee are: Melissa Mynatt (Science), Seymour High School; Debbie Kipp (Spanish), Sevier County High School; and Cindy Davis (Science, Geography, and History), Bridgeport Elementary School of Cocke County.
The teachers in North Carolina are Phyllis Kapsalis (Language Arts), Waynesville Middle School; Greg Tucker (Science) Pisgah High School; and Jane Jenkins (school librarian), Jonathan Valley Elementary.
The high school interns are from: Tennessee – Charles Black, Cosby High School; Daniel Love, Sevier County High School; Carmina de Guia, Heritage High School; Mallorie Williams, Maryville High School; Logan Combs, Seymour High School; and Kayleigh Hansen, Gatlinburg-Pittman High School; North Carolina – Tyler Auffhammer, Robbinsville High School; Kate Bradley and Tre Toineeta, Cherokee High School; Bradley Greene and Jessica Viscusi, Swain County High School; Noah Linger, Tuscola High School; and Mattie Graves, Buncombe County Early College.
Source: NPS release