The Chilkoot Trail, a 33-mile stretch of harsh and rugged hiking trails carved out by Chilkoot Natives once fueled the dreams of fortune seekers. Armed with pick, shovel, and a dream over 100,000 “gold diggers” ventured into the remotest part of Alaska into the Canadian Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896. About 30,000-40,000 prospectors made it through the Chilkoot, but only 4,000 men and women actually struck it rich!
This summer, the Chilkoot will be where first year science teacher, Josiah Jones will spend 5 nights and 6 days leading a group of teenagers as a Teacher Ranger (TRT) with the US National Park Service. The Southern California native currently teaches high school Earth Science in the Long Beach (California) Unified School District and hopes to share his experience with his students in the fall.
According to Amanda McCutcheon, Acting Regional Coordinator for the Teacher Ranger Teacher Program at Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park in Alaska “Every year, it’s one of my hardest times of the year to select a Teacher Ranger Teacher candidate because all the teachers are so enthusiastic” she adds, “they really just want the experience and want to be able to bring it back to their classroom.” McCutcheon touts this professional development opportunity by pointing out that each TRT is provided with travel costs, housing, and living expenses, as well as a $3000 stipend for serving at one of the 401 National Parks and National Historic Sites in the US.
NPS Spokesperson, Kathy Kupper explains “traditionally, a lot of teachers work in National Parks. They teach during the year and they work in a National Park during the summer. It was always kind of a traditional summer job for a lot of teachers.” In the past, teachers have served in the Park’s Visitor Center and assisted with general park duties. This year, however, teachers will develop projects, lesson plans, and curriculum specific to their assigned location.
National Coordinator for TRT, Linda Rosenblum explains “Now we’re working through the University of Colorado (UC) at Denver to provide the professional development credit hours. UC Denver works with National Park Service in evaluating lesson plans and the program projects that the Teacher Ranger develops during their summer experience.” she adds, “they (teachers) are focusing more on developing skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education, history and civics, service learning, using primary sources in social studies and history.” Teachers can choose to receive credit hours to satisfy state certification requirements or receive up to 9 graduate credit hours from the University of Colorado at Denver.
“We learn a lot about mining, minerals, and the rock cycle” says Josiah Jones, and he’s already planning lessons for his high school students in the fall. This summer, he’ll be developing lessons plans as he hikes the Chilkoot. As for now, Jones simply wants his summer students to appreciate the planet, “I hope that overall they have a fun time and they have a positive experience being outside. A positive experience associated with the National Park system, and a positive association with the environment.”
If you want to learn more about serving as a Teacher Ranger with the National Park Service, visit TeacherRangerTeacher.org for more information.