I recently received the opportunity to use The Appalachian Trail: A Unit Study download by Donna Rees from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. I chose this study since we live near(ish) to the Appalachian Trail and I’ve always wanted to hike a small portion of it. And by “hike” I mean a nice little walk where we pack a little picnic but are safely tucked back in bed by nightfall far, far away from bears!
The download is only fifteen pages. That number seemed disappointing at first but as I flipped through the pages I could see this was going to be a rich and full study. There is enough material and ideas in here for to cover more than a year of school. The kids and I sat down together and picked out a few projects to complete. We then headed to the library to check out several of the recommended titles mentioned in the study. We came home with a stack of wonderful books and several “coffee table” books full of pictures and maps of the Appalachian Trail.
Two books that we enjoyed were That Book Woman by Heather Henson and The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills. Both books reminded me of stories from my grandmother who lived in Appalachia all her life, stories that I then passed on to my kids. We also picked out a couple of books by Kentucky author Jesse Stuart. Right now we are still reading aloud his The Beatinest Boy and I recommend it if you are looking for a book with a Christmas theme and character development.
Oldest’s project was to draw a map of the Appalachian Trail and the surrounding states and mark the state capitals. He is also using the guide and some of the suggested websites to plan a vacation to the Cherokee National Forest along the Trail. Sparkles chose to write and illustrate a trail guide of common plant life along the trail. Middle Boy also wanted to put a trail guide together so he chose to write on common animals along the trail. He also added a section on endangered animals.
The unit study contains several ideas for reports, creative writing opportunities, spelling, vocabulary, and grammar. The second section covers math studies along the trail. I likes the ideas about creating word problems and teaching my crew to how to take raw date and make a graph. We enjoyed many of the science and nature study options listed in the guide. We listened on given websites to the different sounds the creatures make along the trail. The kids even enjoyed trying to guess what sort of animal belonged to the sound we listened too.
We’ve picked out several activities from the physical education section but haven’t had a chance to try them out due to the weather and my current illness. I also love all of the art ideas listed in the guide and many of these ideas can be adapted to any curriculum or subject of study. The history section includes several websites to learn about the history of the Trail. Like many people I had also believed it was based on an old Native American trail. It is not! We learned about the National Trail Systems and why they were created as well as the fascinating people involved in their development.
We also listened to traditional mountain music and learned about the dulcimer. The geography section listed tons of ideas for studies. We looked at an online interactive map and learned about several bench marks along the trail. The home economics section covered camping food, clothing choices, first-aid preparedness and so much more.
The rest of the study guide discusses camping and hiking tips with websites for additional information. The author even lists a few idea for “delight-directed” study to expand on the unit study.
We are having a blast with this unit study learning about the Appalachian Trail!