• Education

    Education

Inspiring Mountain Stewardship

Education Programs

Experiential education programs are the core of TMI’s Appalachian Program. Our signature Mountain Learning programs bring adventure, conservation, and education together in an academically rigorous environment. The many courses offered through these educational programs focus on leadership development and cooperation through hands-on activities and exploring the great outdoors! Many of the schools that we work with have been bringing students to the Spruce Knob Mountain Center since the early 1980s. Our program offerings have changed a great deal since our early years, but our philosophy has remained the same–we believe that bringing students outdoors to experience true hands-on experiential education is one of the best ways for students to learn about themselves, their peers, and their environment.

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”  –Sir John Lubbock, 19th century British biologist

These courses can be based at our residential education facilities, the Spruce Knob Mountain Center; field-based, in the Monongahela National Forest which surrounds our facilities, or off-site. For more information about how we can tailor our programs to fit your specific needs, please contact Melinda Brooks, or call 304.567.2632.

Essential Elements & Activities

Essential Elements & Activities
The following lessons and activities comprise TMI’s Mountain Learning courses. We are happy to design a custom program to fit your group’s needs using any combination of the opportunities below.

-Group Dynamics:Games and mixer activities immediately engage the students in active learning about each other, their instructors, and their course.
-Team Development: Group initiatives promote cooperation, communication, trust, decision making, problem solving, and leadership development.
-Service Learning Projects: Participate in a variety of service learning projects including trail maintenance, watershed restoration through tree planting and invasive species control.
-Geology: Learn about the geologic history of the Appalachians. Hike to the top of Spruce Knob for a bird’s eye view of ancient tectonic activity and current rock layers.
-Forest Heritage: Discover the history of West Virginia’s forests, including such topics as logging, railroads, homesteads, and National Forest development.
-Beaver Pond Ecology: Follow the waterways to find traces of beaver activity and discover clues about a beaver’s lifestyle.
-Stream Ecology: Study a pristine mountain stream in the headwaters of the Potomac or Mississippi River. Learn to sample physical, chemical, and biological properties of the stream and why water quality is important to human and environmental health. Single and multi-day watershed education experiences are offered.
-Orienteering and Hiking to Spruce Knob: A view from the top! Learn map and compass land navigation and work together to find the highest point in West Virginia.
-Nocturnal Explorations: Explore the night with games, hikes, and discovery activities.
-Astronomy: On clear nights, students explore the night sky using the naked eye, binoculars, and our observatory’s telescope. We have access to one of the darkest skies in the east: a real treat for astronomers of any experience level.
-Canoeing: Students may explore the Greenbrier, Delaware, or Potomac River on multi-day canoe trips. Alternatively, students can relax on the calm waters of nearby Spruce Knob Lake.
-Whitewater Rafting: The lively Shenandoah and Cheat rivers make West Virginia a hotspot for rafting.
-Survival Skills: Learn about survival skills, including fire building, shelter construction, and other outdoor-exploration skills through fun games and activities.
-Caving: Learn about West Virginia’s colorful subterranean ecology, geology, and history in an undeveloped cave. After a brief lesson in the grotto, we’ll follow Gandy Creek as it winds through the cave for 3/4 of a mile. This cave offers large passageways and is an excellent first time cave!

Field-Based Programs

Field-Based Programs
During field based programs, students spend a week living and exploring the outdoors together. Working in small groups, students set up a basecamp at the edge of the Spruce Knob Mountain Center or in the bordering Monongahela National Forest. From this basecamp, students explore the ridges, summits, valleys, and caves of the area. Day hikes are punctuated with teambuilding activities and lessons pertaining to the flora, fauna, geology, and geography of the area. Each night, the students return to camp to cook, clean, play, and rest. The combination of cooperative living, hands-on science activities, self-sufficiency, and group learning in an immersive setting helps to form bonds and foster confidence that will last for a lifetime. Field-based programs are recommended for middle and high school students. For more information about our field-based programming contact Melinda Brooks at (304) 567-2632 or email us: learning@mountain.org.

Residential Programs

Residential Programs
Residential programs, based at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center, are ideal for younger children, shorter visits, or science-intensive programs. When staying in dormitories, participants are not expected to cook or set up camp as they would be in a field-based program. This is ideal for students who would like to focus on other challenges and make greater use of SKMC’s indoor facilities.Traditionally our programs begin with a parent and student meeting at your school. We present a slideshow to help prepare for the trip and answer any questions both groups may have.

Students explore the surrounding area on day trips that are typically two to four days in length. Students sleep in dormitories and meals are prepared daily by our cooks. For more information on course content, please contact Kellee Waddell at (304) 567-2632 or email us: learning@mountain.org.

Summer Camps

Mountain Stewards is a summer service program designed to give youth an impactful experience amongst West Virginia’s lofty mountains and pristine valleys. The 6-day expedition blends stewardship, experiential education, and exploration in one of the most biodiverse environments on Earth. This summer, we’re offering separate programs for both high school and middle school aged participants.
  • High School

    High School Program

    The majority of the week will be spent in the Blackwater Canyon partnering with the Friends of the Blackwater on a trail reclamation project. As they backpack campsite to campsite, the group will pitch tents and begin to learn the time-honored art of campcraft – including tent and tarp set-up, fire building, cooking in the woods, effective water treatment, knot tying, and proper waste disposal. The days will be filled with a variety of adventure, learning, and stewardship opportunities (clearing hiking trails, replacing trail markers, and creating erosion control systems). As they make their way back to Pendleton County, the group will stop and spend the night at Seneca Rocks, where they will explore the area, the swimming hole, and enjoy celebratory pizza. They will mark the end of the week-long expedition with a guided top rope climbing adventure before they make their way back to the Spruce Knob Mountain Center to prepare for the journey home. Participants will be awarded 20 hours of community service credit. This program is open to anyone entering grades 9-12.

    2017 Dates:
    • June 11th -17th (Sun 12pm – Sat 12pm)
    • June 18th – 23rd (Sun 12pm – Fri 4pm)
    • June 25th – July 1st (Sun 12pm – Sat 12pm)
    • July 2nd – 7th (Sun 12pm – Fri 4pm)
    • July 9th – 15th (Sun 12pm – Sat 12pm)
  • Middle School Program

    Middle School Program

    The middle school program is a wonderful introduction to how we take care of our environment, our peers, and ourselves in wild places. The program will begin and end at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center. The first and final night will be spent in our onsite dormitories – getting to know one another on the first day, and reflecting on the shared experience the final night. The group will spend the majority of the week base camping in the surrounding Monongahela National Forest. Here they will learn the time-honored art of campcraft – including tent and tarp set-up, fire building, cooking in the woods, effective water treatment, knot tying, and proper waste disposal. The days will be filled with adventure (orienteering, caving), learning (ecology explorations), and stewardship opportunities (onsite project TBD). Participants will be awarded 10 hours of community service credit. The middle school program is open to anyone entering grades 6-8.

    2017 Dates:
    • June 11th – 15th (Sun 2pm – Thurs 4pm)
    • June 18th – 23rd (Sun 2pm – Fri 4pm)
    • July 2nd – 7th (Sun 2pm – Fri 4pm)
    • July 9th – 15th (Sun 2pm – Sat 12pm)
  • Farm Based

    Farm Based

    Throughout the course of the week, campers and staff together will maintain the 560 acre Sweet Water Farm. Each day campers will spend a small amount of time completing necessary farm chores (livestock, gardening, cooking the day’s meals). At the beginning of the week, each camper will participate in a survival skills workshop where they will focus their time on learning the primitive art of fire-making using a bow drill. Here, each participant will have the opportunity to create their own bow drill kit, and practice their skills. Throughout the course of the week, the campers will be challenged to use their bow drills effectively to make fire. Mid-week marks the beginning of the camper driven backpacking trip. As a group, participants will create a trip plan using a topographical map, and will be responsible for packing the appropriate food and gear. While on the expedition, campers will learn the time-honored art of campcraft – including tent and tarp set-up, cooking in the woods, effective water treatment, knot tying, and proper waste disposal. The end of the week will be spent back at the farm, partnering with Trout Unlimited on a riparian restoration project. Participants will earn a total of 20 hours of community service hours for their work on the farm and must be over the age of 13 to participate.

    2017 Dates:
    • July 9th – 15th (Sun 2pm – Sat 12pm)
  • All Girls

    All Girls

    Providing girls an opportunity to come together, without distraction, to celebrate their ability to thrive in a backcountry setting. The first and final night will be spent in our onsite dormitories – getting to know one another on the first day, and reflecting on the shared experience the final night. The group will embark on the backpacking portion of the program on day two when they head into the Seneca Creek Backcountry. Along the way they will spend time swimming at the high falls of Seneca Creek, camping near a pristine mountain spring, and exploring the scenic high meadows. The expedition will end at the summit of Spruce Knob where campers will shuttle to a local crag for a guided top rope climbing adventure before they head back to the Spruce Knob Mountain Center to prepare for the journey home. Onsite stewardship project (TBD). Participants will be awarded 10 hours of community service credit. This program is open to girls ages 10 – 17.

    2017 Dates:
    June 25th – July 1st, 2017 (Sun 2pm – Sat 12pm)
    .
  • Family Night

    Family Night

    Campers will have the opportunity to show their families around our mountain campus, go for a hike in the national forest, enjoy dinner served at the yurts, and spend quality time around the campfire sharing s’mores, the night sky, and wonderful company.

    Family night will only be offered on July 1st and 15th, 2017.

    Family Night Package

    Lodging:
    • Family Bunk Rooms (Sleep 5, first to reserve gets it)
    • Private Yurt (Sleeps 2-3, first to reserve gets it)
    • Option to tent out (we can provide any necessary gear: sleeping bag, pad, tent, etc.)

    Meals: Sunset dinner on the back deck and breakfast served at the yurts (we can accommodate most dietary restrictions).

    Cost: $50.00/person
  • Program Details

    Program Details

    Each program will consist of 8-14 participants, and 2 TMI instructors. All instructors are passionate outdoor educators who have college degrees, hold current Wilderness First Responder or Wilderness First Aid certifications, and have passed background checks.

    All food and gear will be provided during the program.

    We believe it is vital for everyone, regardless of means, to have access to wild places, high quality experiential education, and meaningful stewardship opportunities. Thanks to generous donations from the Schoenbaum Family Foundation, the W.E. Stone Foundation, the Oakland Foundation Inc., and other private donors, we are able to provide West Virginia youth this experience at the cost of $25/night. The actual cost of the camp is more than $100/night. We require a $100 deposit at the time of registration for all participants. We encourage families and participants that are able to make an additional donation above the minimum cost to please do so. Your tax deductible donation will be used to provide this meaningful summer program to more youth.

    If you live inside of West Virginia, the cost is $25/night per participant.
    If you live outside of West Virginia, the cost is $100/night per participant.

    Refund Policy

    We will refund participant deposits in full if we receive written notice to Melinda Brooks more than sixty days before the start of the program. If a participant cancels within sixty days of the start of the program they will not receive a refund. We require a minimum of eight participants and reserve the right to cancel the program if we do not meet the minimum. In the event that we need to cancel a program session, we will notify families within thirty days of the start of the program and they will receive a full refund.

    For more information, please contact Melinda Brooks or call the office at (304) 567-2632.

  • Register Now

    Register Now

    Registration Form Here

Since 1972 The Mountain Institute has partnered with remote mountain communities in the highest, longest and oldest mountains of the world. We work together to conserve ecosystems, develop sustainable livelihoods and protect unique mountain cultures.