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Kids learning in the Smokies with a little help from Friends

Staff Report • Aug 2, 2013 at 9:30 PM

KODAK, Tenn. — Friends of the Smokies invested more than $226,000 in environmental education programs in Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the 2012-2013 school year.

Through a combination of foundation grants, major corporate gifts and purchases of Friends of the Smokies’ North Carolina and Tennessee specialty license plates, 20,324 students and 4,685 teachers and chaperones enjoyed the national park as an enormous outdoor schoolroom through programs like Parks as Classrooms and Teacher-Ranger-Teacher.

“Students from East Tennessee and Western North Carolina are so fortunate to have one of America’s greatest natural treasures right in their backyard, and because of the generosity of these donors and Friends’ license plate buyers, even students from as far away as Indiana can participate in interactive, online distance learning opportunities through Parks as Classrooms,” Friends of the Smokies President Jim Hart said in a release.

Over the past year, funding from the Cherokee Boys Club, Clayton Family Foundation, Cornerstone Foundation of Knoxville, North Carolina Glaxo Smith Kline Foundation, Home Federal Bank, National Park Foundation, North Carolina State, Richard Haiman National Parks Foundation, Toyota and Walmart provided seasonal park rangers and resource education interns, supplies and materials needed for hands-on learning activities and transportation underwriting to bring kids into the park.

Through the Parks in Classrooms program, lessons are presented in traditional school environments to schools that do not get to visit the park. In the summer, a select few educators work alongside park staff acquiring in-depth knowledge of the park, which they take back to their classrooms as part of the Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program.

Additionally, kids from across the United States and around the world have the opportunity to become Junior Rangers as part of their visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For more information about the programs mentioned here, visit the park’s website.To learn more about Friends of the Smokies, visit the not-for-profit organization's website.

(Information from Friends of the Smokies)

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