Some of the AP students at Moody High School recently attended Tremont Institute in the Smoky Mountains to do research and hike.

Tremont is a non-profit residential environmental education center that provides in-depth experiences through education programs that celebrate ecological and cultural diversity, foster stewardship, and nurture appreciation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The center is located within the watershed of the Middle Prong of the Little River, which encompasses 20,000 acres. Within this area, about 20 miles of trails intersect diverse forest types, streams and geologic formations.

Moody High School AP Biology teacher Terri Brasher said students learned about aquatic ecology studies in the Middle Prong, learned about geology and the Greenbriar Fault along the Falls Trail, and searched for bear sign on Lumber Ridge.

"All of these activities, and the other unique activities in their lessons allowed the students to use the outdoors as a classroom and laboratory," Brasher said.

Each day consisted of schools plan programs by choosing from a curriculum of natural and cultural history topics; Lessons emphasize hands-on exploration of the national park; a Tremont Teacher/Naturalist teaches cooperatively with the school’s staff as well as assists teachers with materials, trails, and questions.

MHS students participated in an eight-mile hike to a breathtaking waterfall; solo hikes to experience all the sights, sounds, and smells in nature; folk dancing taught by professional dancers; salamander monitoring (scientific study) to assist with University research; stream ecology (scientific study) to assist with University research; night hikes; campfire with storytelling; bear presentation by a bear expert.

MHS student Gretchen Newton said Tremont was an amazing life changing experience.

"I became myself in nature," Newton said. "The time alone without my phone helped me realize what I needed to fix in my life."

Another student, Shelby Agerton, said her favorite part of the trip was taking the eight-mile hike with Kasey.

"She was so enthusiastic and let us be ourselves while still teaching us and leading us," Agerton said."

Student Dee Williams thanked the instructors for their time in introducing him to a whole new world.

"They showed me features of nature that I had no idea of, and I never lost my interest while attending," Williams said.

Student Logan Gann said coming home and sharing his trip makes him want to go back.

"I want to thank the staff at Tremont for so graciously allowing our school to experience the incredible essence that is nature," said student Xiola Harris.

Brasher said the best thing about Tremont was seeing kids who never talk to one another at school become friends.

"We had kids who are self-professed loners suddenly feel comfortable with a group of friends," Brasher said. "These kids will remember this experience for their entire lives."

Moody High principal Cheryl Kuyk was also appreciative.

"I wanted the Moody High School students to attend Tremont so they could participate in scientific research, hike in the beautiful Smoky Mountains, and have once-in-a-lifetime science and cultural experiences," she said.