First Advisor

Jeremy Spoon

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Anthropology




United States -- Appalachian Trail, Trails -- Public use -- Appalachian Trail -- Planning


Appalachians’ relationships with the environment alter over time due to political, economic, and ecological factors. These changing relationships, for instance rural agrarian livelihoods shifting to urban contexts, can influence how an individual perceives personal responsibility in regional environmental stewardship, such as caring for and preserving local ecology. Observing that recent shifts resulted in less perceived youth stewardship for the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) created the Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) program in 2006. The TTEC program attempts to foster stewardship through the practice of place-based service learning - a diversification of education where youth learn through community integrated lessons and local service projects. To date, the ATC had not completed an evaluation of their ability to engender stewardship in its participants. I interned with the ATC for ten weeks and conducted a utilization-focused program evaluation, framing my research questions within the ATC’s Theory of Change model and their organizational goal of creating AT stewardship in TTEC teachers, students, and trail partners. For my analysis I utilized a political ecology theoretical lens to place individuals within their political, economic, and ecological contexts which influence human-environment relationships and potentially individual levels of stewardship. My fieldwork utilized the following techniques: participant observation in TTEC communities (11 total); focus groups with TTEC teachers trained in 2015 (n=16), ATC staff (n=2), TTEC teacher alumni (n=3), and TTEC trail partners from local trail clubs (n=3); surveys from TTEC teachers trained in 2015 (n= 38); semi-structured/structured interviews with alumni TTEC teachers (n=28) and TTEC students (n=124); and TTEC trail partner surveys with local trail clubs and park employees (n=11). Based on the results, I argue that AT stewardship has yet to occur in research participants for three primary reasons: (1) TTEC participants face political, economic, and ecological barriers against accessing public lands and engaging in active, physical outdoor recreation; (2) TTEC participant communities are experiencing socio-economic transitions due to changing industries and migration patterns altering regional land values and human-environment relationships; and (3) the ATC employs an ecocentric (environmental sustainability) model for change while the communities operate within an anthrocentric (human development) model. This project serves as a program evaluation for TTEC’s ongoing organizational development and as a case study example of place-based service learning and environmental stewardship within changing Appalachian communities.


© 2016 Bonnie Jean Harvey

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This is a Policy Paper in fulfillment of the M.A. in Anthropology

Persistent Identifier