Smoky Mountains Are Smoking Up With STEM
The region between North Carolina and Tennessee is filled with fun and educational places for students. This land uses the mountains to its advantage to educate youth about the natural habitat, physical science and geology. Students will get down and dirty in the mountains while expanding their minds with workshops and programs.
Museums and Zoos
Students will learn everything science, math, geography and more at the Titanic Museum. They’ll find out why and how the Titanic sank so quickly and how it sank so quickly through various activities. They will make a boat out of aluminum foil, put it in water and slowly add one penny at a time. They will make a model of the Titanic using numbers, calculate the speed of the vessel and create a pie graph based on numbers of passengers. This museum is very hands-on and makes students think. By the end of the day, students will be able to read a map based on log positions and track the route of the Titanic until it sank.
Dollywood will be the all-time entertaining and educational field trip your students will love. Dollywood’s “Science in the Park” program will make the theme park your classroom. All you need to do is download this PDF and let the park be your oyster. It includes STEM activities and problems to solve for many rides including Thunderhead, Wild Eagle and Mystery is Mine. Answers are included at the bottom. After having completed the activities, students can let loose and enjoy all of the rides, slides, attractions, shows and the water park.
Located in the heart of the Smokey Mountains, Rainforest Adventures Zoo features over 600 animals representing over 130 species. Their website includes guidelines for how teachers can prepare for the trip with a pre-exploration vocabulary list, a quest for during the trip and a quest for after. Another option is signing up as a field trip, which will begin with a 45-minute live presentation by a zookeeper and a question-and-answer portion. The students then have 40 minutes to view the exhibits. A scavenger hunt is an option for them as well.
Universities & Academia
Southwestern Community College was awarded a grant from NASA to enrich STEM education throughout schools and communities. This organization expands opportunities for STEM education in western North Carolina. This includes working with local math and science teachers, professional development workshops and orientation sessions describing NASA and STEM-related career choices for middle and high schoolers. On a tour of Southwestern College, students can learn about the Early College program, where students can earn an associate’s degree or technical certificate.
Plan a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains Institue at Tremont to engage in exceptionally hands-on three to five days. Using the park as a classroom, students will work closely with faculty to meet their academic needs. There are many lessons to choose from such as air quality, river and reflections, astronomy, trips to Cades Cove and plenty more. From ecology to geology, physics and navigation, students will get a large dose of STEM. The Institute provides lesson plans like this, where you can ask questions about mean, median and mode.
Institute at Tremont provides many camp opportunities for ages nine to 13. Smokies Science Investigations allows students to swim with the fish to identify the species that thrive in the Smokies. This camp aims for students to learn about the natural world and methods scientists use to study it. In Teen High Adventure, teens will spend six nights in the outdoors to understand living ethics and learn firsthand about plants and animals. Middle schoolers can sign up for Discovery Camp, where they will search for salamanders, collect insects and hike through the wilderness.
Technology & Industry
Located in Pigeon Forge, Tennesse, WonderWorks is an interactive amusement park that combines education and entertainment. WonderWorks features over 100 hands-on activities for middle and high schoolers. Students will design and ride their own roller coaster, lie in a bed of nails, analyze fingerprint ridge patterns, climb a ropes course and much more. Each activity is STEM-related. For example, students will experience energy, gravity and light, explore Earth’s natural disasters and be introduced to physical science with art, math and movement. The “Wonder Zones” kids can explore range from “Physical Challenge Zone” and “Space Discovery” to “Imagination Lab” and “Light and Sound Zone”.
Straddling the borders between North Carolina and Tennesee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a perfect getaway destination for leisure, laughs and most importantly, learning. From black bears to wildflowers, to hiking and biking, this park has it all. Friends of the Smokies offers guided hikes and events that increase awareness of the national park.
The Great Smoky Mountains Association offers hikes and activities that enhance knowledge and appreciation of the park. Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont offers workshops and classes for environmental education. Lastly, Smoky Mountain Field School is an educational outreach program which teaches about wildflowers, mushrooms, stream life, forests and more.
Being one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smokies, hiking Cades Cove is a must. Before the hike, grab a self-guided booklet to teach students the rich history of Cades Cove. While on the hike, you will come across white-tailed deer, black bear, coyote, ground hog, turkey and more. This 11-mile loop will educate your students on history, wildlife and outdoor survival.