Smokies national park, Maryville College launch high school course

Jul. 16, 2013 @ 11:38 PM

This summer, the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, in collaboration with Maryville College and the college's Mountain Challenge Program, is launching the Great Smokies Experience. The two-week pilot program will let high school students earn college credit.

Students who successfully complete the program will receive credit for Introduction to Environmental Issues, a course at Maryville College.

The Great Smokies Experience will take place July 18-31. It is divided into three sections, ranging from hikes and history to ecosystems and nationalism.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for an intro to environmental science class to be taught the way it should be taught, which is not inside a classroom, but at nature sites that have environmental significance," said Dr. Doug Sofer, coordinator of the Great Smokies Experience and associate professor of history at Maryville College.

The seven students enrolled in the program will spend half the class camping at the Tremont Institute in the Smokies. The other half will be spent living on the campus of Maryville College.

"With Maryville College just a half-hour down the road from the National Park, it's just a great way to highlight why students should come to the Smokies," Sofer said.

Sofer said that those who participate in the course will be able to continue a relationship with Tremont, as two former students and one current student of Maryville College are currently involved with the institute. The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont offers a residential environmental learning center.

In addition to the learning that will take place in the National Park, students will take trips to various areas of the Cherokee National Forest, the Maryville College Woods, a Tennessee Valley Authority dam and other relevant sites.

The course, which costs $1,495, includes tuition, room and board, and all special events and transportation.

"Since I first visited Tremont, I'd been thinking it would be great if we could start a college program offering credit to high school students," Sofer said. "We're excited about what we're going to do this year, but I think we're equally excited about what we're going to do in the future as we build from what we learn," he said.

Sofer said that the course "will give students a genuinely profound encounter with nature."

jfrye@themountainpress.com