The Smoky Mountains: An Education Waiting to Happen
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
is a playground for the senses. Cycling andviewing wildlife at Cades Cove are activities that are enjoyed by vacationers of all ages. Ashome to a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish, the Smoky Mountainsprovide entertainment and education for all who visit. Opportunities such as auto tours,
bicycling paths, tubing, and camping allow visitors to explore nature’s forests and
waterfalls. With so many things to see and do, the most difficult task is finding the time toenjoy all of them.The Great Smoky Mountains National Park includes more than 800 square miles of theSouthern Appalachian Mountains, covering parts of North Carolina and Tennessee. TheSmoky Mountains are home to more than seventeen thousand documented species of plants, animals, and other living organisms, making it a virtual classroom for families toexplore.One of the most interesting ways to learn about wildlife and nature is through exploration of natural environments. Seeing a squirrel run straight up a tree in record time or realizing
that a deer is steadily watching from afar is thrilling to people of all ages. It’s important to
remember that disturbing the wildlife is not only unsafe but is also illegal in national parks.
Take binoculars or cameras to explore the park in a way that is safe for everyone.Nothing feeds sensory stimulation like walking through a forest filled with plants andflowers. Smelling the trees and fresh air, seeing the bright colors of the flowers as theystand out against the green foliage, and touching the fallen leaves or the tree bark allowsthe brain to pleasantly learn about the environment in ways that are not possible by simplyreading lessons.Trees abound in any forest, and the Smoky Mountains are no exception. Spruce, fir, sugarmaple, American beech, yellow birch, pine, oak, and hemlock cover this enormous mountainrange. Mountain ash, blackberries, and hobblebush can also be found. Temperate conditionsin the Smoky Mountains provide the perfect atmosphere for many types of plants andflowers.While plants and trees are interesting and beautiful to look at, children often go to a forestto see the wildlife. The opportunity to view animals in their natural habitat is an educationalgold mine for parents and children alike. With approximately sixty-six species of mammals,fifty types of native fish, two hundred kinds of birds, and eighty species of reptiles andamphibians, it is likely children will be pleased with what they see.While exploring the nature trails, bears are one type of mammal people look for either withexcitement or apprehension. Black bears reside in the Smoky Mountains, foraging forinsects, berries, nuts, and small animals. They are mainly active in early mornings or lateevenings. It is important to not leave food lying around to attract these creatures. They canbe dangerous if threatened.White-tailed deer are a common sight in areas such as Cades Cove, where they graze inopen fields. They search for food between dusk and dawn, making this the best time to see