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High school students from across the state explore Great Smoky Mountains virtually

They planned on a summer searching for rare plants and studying animals with more than a hundred select students from around the state. Instead, they’re learning at home.
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 5:53 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -High school students like Nikitha Sam and Kimberly By Goytia are learning about the Smoky Mountains through online courses.

“You get to learn a lot more about plant structure and how plants evolved, and it’s really interesting to see how plants evolved alongside humans and how complex their structures are,” said Sam.

They are a part of The Governor’s School for the Sciences and Engineering (GSSE). They planned on a summer searching for rare plants and studying animals with more than a hundred select students from around the state. Instead, they’re sitting at home in Memphis.

“My parents were already hesitant about letting me go. They were kind of thinking of turning down the invitation just for my safety and to make sure that I didn’t get sick,” said By Gotia.

Instead of canceling the program, Sarah Herron with Friends of the Smokies says they started a partnership with Tremont and Discover Life in America for those online courses.

“It’s not the same as being in person, but it was really great to offer that, and I know that the environmental educators are normally in the park. We’re really excited to do that and they really miss their students,” said Herron.

They send students interactive packages with lesson plans on how to control a robot or keep a plant alive, and they use apps like INaturalist.

Using the app, students don’t have to leave home to get a look at what’s happening in nature.

“I had no idea an app like that existed that we could log species of animals and plants, and I think that it’s a really good way to get in touch with our environment and just understand what’s happening around us,” said By Gotia.

Both students say it’s made them want to join the STEM field in some way.

“GSSE has given me the opportunity to explore a lot of fields I didn’t know existed. I didn’t really think of myself going into biomedical engineering, but now learning more about plants and biology it’s created this interest for me,” said Sam.

Just because people can’t study together right now, doesn’t mean they have to stop learning.

The applications open in September and the deadline to sign up is December. Students wanting to apply to a Governor’s School will need to be nominated by their school counselor and work closely with them to complete the application process.

Copyright 2020 WVLT. All rights reserved.

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