An Extern's Experience

2000 Summer Externship

Extern: Susan Cheifsky, Eighth Grade Teacher
School: Woodstock Union Middle School
Workplace: Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park
Mentor: Tim Maguire, Chief of Visitor Services
Objective: To develop a partnership between the National Park Service and the school in order to utilize a local resource for an interdisciplinary unit of study.

Mt. Tom: Nature's Classroom
By Susan Chiefsky

During September, twenty-three Woodstock eighth graders took part in an interdisciplinary unit of study on Mt. Tom. This unit was a way to learn about the mountain and how to protect our surroundings. It also was a way for the students to discover the meaning of sense of place. The class studied the history of Mt. Tom in order to learn about and understand conservation and stewardship. They hiked up trails and studied various species of trees. They also learned about the gentlemen who reforested the mountain. A tour of the mansion gave them a look into the lives of the previous owners. The students now appreciate and recognize ways to provide our world with healthier, more adequate surroundings. The study left them with an overall feeling that our environment is in good hands. As a result of their study, students put together notebooks reflecting their experience. Each notebook included reactions to quotes, observations made during their field studies, drawings and topo maps and GPS points. Their cover, which included a quote by David Lowenthal (a noted George Perkins Marsh biographer) was actually signed by Mr. Lowenthal, who was visiting the Park Service in October. Journals were on display at district town halls on Election Day. In cooperative groups, students designed a map of Mt. Tom. Their map highlighted trails, artifacts, tree stands and the mansion. It is on display at the Visitor Center. Lastly, students are developing a website for Vermont Institute of Natural Science and as a possible link-up with the Park Service.

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