More than 100 fourth and fifth-grade students, or mini-Mountaineers, from the Appalachian State University Academy at Middle Fork, located in Walkertown, North Carolina, visited campus on Wednesday, April 24 to learn about campus life and discover how their college in the mountains will be ready for them when the time comes.
The Academy at Middle Fork’s fourth and fifth-grade mini-Mountaineers visit Appalachian’s campus. Photo by Marta Toran
The campus visit was coordinated by Octavia Little, Associate Director of Admissions for Teacher Education; Verschello M. Nelson, Academy Assistant Principal; Tracey Tardiff, Pre-Enrollment Programs Coordinator for Appalachian’s Office of Admissions; and, Marta Toran, Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences Outreach Coordinator, with the assistance of student organization, Appalachian Educators Club.
"I was excited to work with Octavia and Tracey to make this learning opportunity possible for our mini-Mountaineers,” said Nelson. “We frequently talk about the campus in Boone; therefore, after our visit, students were able to connect the Academy campus (in Walkertown) with the Boone campus. Also, this experience gave our students the chance to see that college is within their reach. The day was a fun-filled experience for all of us."
“We frequently talk about the campus in Boone; therefore, after our visit, students were able to connect the Academy campus (in Walkertown) with the Boone campus. Also, this experience gave our students the chance to see that college is within their reach." --Verschello M. Nelson
Student volunteers - nearly 40 - who helped during the visit included Appalachian Educators Club members, Appalachian Student Ambassadors, and geological and environmental sciences majors. They acted as tour guides and participated in interactive activities with Academy students.
Appalachian student, Jay Edwards, leads Academy students in a game. Photo submitted
In addition, university administrators and faculty, including Cindy Barr, Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management; Dr. Alexis Pope, Director of Admissions; Dr. Ellen Cowan, Antarctic researcher and professor in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences; and, Dr. Phil Johnson, Director of the Reich College of Education’s (RCOE) Mathematics and Science Education Center (MSEC), engaged with the students throughout the day.
“What an inspiring experience!” said Tardiff. “It was amazing to have so many Appalachian State University faculty, staff, and students join us to proudly share our campus experiences with the Academy students, faculty and administrators.”
The campus visit was a successful team effort with planning beginning early in the spring semester to ensure that the mini-Mountaineers were given an exciting and meaningful look into the college experience at Appalachian.
Their College in the Mountains
After the ride up the mountain in charter buses, graciously provided by the MSEC, Academy students, teachers and chaperones arrived in Boone to a fun-filled, sunny day.
The mini-Mountaineers were able to talk with Appalachian students and ask questions about college life. According to Little, the hope being that they can "see their future selves" on campus as well.
Together, the two groups also participated in activities, both fun and educational, including:
- A guided campus tour;
- A scavenger hunt around the McKinney Geology Teaching Museum and visit to the Fred Webb Jr. Outdoor Geology Laboratory and Interactive Rock Garden;
- A visit to “In Search of Earth’s Secrets” traveling exhibit about scientific ocean floor research, designed by the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) and hosted by Cowan;
- Interactive geology activities with students from the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, led by Toran;
- A picnic lunch in the Rankin Science Building courtyard;
- And more!
Academy students visit the McKinney Geology Teaching Museum and participate in a scavenger hunt. Photo by Marie Freeman
About the experience, Hannah Carpenter, a junior history secondary education major from Stanley, North Carolina, said, “I was able to give the students a campus tour, answer questions that they had about Appalachian and campus life, as well as participate in ice breaker games with them. The Academy students were so excited to see what life was like on campus and asked lots of questions. I definitely see some future Mountaineers among them!”
"The Academy students were so excited to see what life was like on campus and asked lots of questions. I definitely see some future Mountaineers among them!” --Hannah Carpenter
A highlight, according to Toran, was the visit to the “In Search of Earth’s Secrets” traveling exhibit with Cowan.
“We were fortunate that Dr. Ellen Cowan was able to join us for the visit,” said Toran. “She was part of the team, along with myself and Dr. Andy Heckert, Director of the McKinney Teaching Museum, who applied for the traveling exhibit grant.”
Dr. Ellen Cowan discusses the “In Search of Earth’s Secrets” exhibit with Academy students, Erick Mariche-Garcia and Ray'Jon Davis-McCullen. Photo by Marie Freeman
Toran added that Cowan, a sedimentologist who studies evidence for climate change in ocean floor sediment, was part of Expedition 379 to Antarctica, aboard the JOIDES Resolution science research vessel, this spring. The exhibit, developed by IODP, highlights the work scientists, like Cowan, conduct on research vessels like the JOIDES Resolution. Cowan was able to discuss, first hand, her experience on the ship and her research with the mini-Mountaineers as they explored the exhibit.
"It was amazing that Appalachian was selected as the only institution in the Carolinas to host the traveling exhibit,” said Toran. “We were so glad that the Academy students were able to enthusiastically enjoy it!"
Carly Maas, a junior geology major from Greensboro, North Carolina, echoed Toran. "I loved seeing the joy and excitement from the students as they learned more about Earth's past,” she said.
Mini-Mountaineers Today, Campus Leaders Tomorrow
While their peers enjoyed the picnic lunch and fun and games in the Rankin Science Building courtyard, members of the Academy’s student council and the Academy Ambassadors, a group of students engaged in outreach for the school, were invited to lunch at the Appalachian House with Chancellor Everts, RCOE Dean Melba Spooner, and representatives from Appalachian’s Student Government Association.
The Academy’s student council members and the Academy Ambassadors enjoy lunch at the Appalachian House with Chancellor Everts. Photo by Marie Freeman
They were able to ask questions and learn about campus leadership and engagement from their Appalachian counterparts.
“These mini-Mountaineers are tomorrow’s leaders, and many of them have their eyes on Appalachian,” said Everts.
“These mini-Mountaineers are tomorrow’s leaders, and many of them have their eyes on Appalachian.” --Chancellor Sheri Everts
Everts also presented all visiting Academy students with copies of the critically acclaimed picture book “CROWN: An Ode To The Fresh Cut” by award-winning children’s book author, Derrick Barnes. This book was selected because Barnes had recently visited the Academy to read and engage with the students as part of the school’s Young Author’s Week.
Academy student, Myrical Wilson, holds a copy of “CROWN: An Ode To The Fresh Cut” by Derrick Barnes, which Chancellor Everts presented to each visiting mini-Mountaineer. Photo by Tracey Tardiff
The visit - which Appalachian and Academy leadership hope will become an annual event - concluded with group photos at the famed Yosef statue by Appalachian’s Duck Pond.
The group poses together for a photo with Yosef. Photo by Tracey Tardiff
“From the perfect weather to the campus tour and from the activities to the picnic, the day could not have gone any better!” said Little. “The day was filled with tons of energy from Academy students, Appalachian volunteers, teachers, and staff. There was a true sense of joy from the students as many of them had never been on a college campus before!”
She added that she heard multiple students say, “I can’t wait to come to college!” during their visit.
Contributors: Kelly Dancy, Jessica Krpejs and Marta Toran