Environmental Education

Since 1972, Pine Mountain Settlement School has offered classes in environmental education to people of all ages. The School has four goals for its environmental education center: to present environmental education as an integral part of all subjects; to provide an accurate interpretation of the natural environment and mountain culture through hands-on experiences and use of historic materials; to offer opportunities to study and understand the special nature of the Appalachian region; and to promote responsible stewardship of natural lands and waterways.

All classes can be adapted to a group's particular needs. Upon request, the staff can also schedule field trips to nearby nature preserves, museums and other cultural attractions.

Pine Mountain Settlement School is located in northern Harlan County in Southeastern Kentucky. The School's campus encompasses nearly 800 acres on the north side of Pine Mountain. The 348-acre James E. Bickford State Nature Preserve on School property is home to many rare plants and animals.

Pine Mountain Settlement School is also a National Historic Landmark. The School's rich history began in 1913 as a boarding school for mountain children, community center, and medical settlement. The boarding school continued until 1949, when Pine Mountain began to operate as a non-residential community school. After the county school system constructed a new school to serve the Pine Mountain community, the Settlement School turned its educational focus to environmental education.

Classes about the Natural Environment

Classes on the Natural Environment


Forest Ecology Students are introduced to the structure and function of trees and the role of forests in the natural environment. The class includes hikes on Pine Mountain to examine the hardwood forest. Key concepts are: ecosystems, ecology, natural communities, species diversity, plant structure, food webs, habitat, biological indicator, producers, consumers, decomposers, and photosynthesis.
NGSS targeted: K-LS1-1, K-ESS2-2, K-PS3-1, K-ESS3-1, 1-LS3-1, 2-LS4-1, 2-ESS1-1, K-2-ETS1-1, 3-LS4-3, 3-LS1-1, 3-LS3-1, 3-LS4-4, 3-LS3-2, 4-LS1-1, 4-ESS1-1, 4-ESS2-1, 5-LS2-1, 6-LS2-2, 8-LS2-4, 7-LS1-4, HS-ESS2-5

Birds Students will learn about the characteristics of different species of birds, their habitats, and ways they adapt to environmental changes, and about bird migrations. Key Concepts are: classification, vertebrates, invertebrates, ecosystems, populations, habitat, niche, adaptations, migrations, species diversity, predator prey relationships, endothermic and ectothermic comparisons.
NGSS targeted: K-ESS2-2, K-ESS3-1, 1-LS1-2, 4-LS1-1, 1-LS3-1, 3-LS2-1, 3-LS4-2, 3-LS4-3, 3-LS1-1, 3-LS3-2, 4-LS1-1, 6-LS2-1, 6-LS2-2

Groundwater Protection Students will learn about the structure of the water molecule, the three states of water's matter, the water cycle, and sources of groundwater pollution. Using groundwater flow models, students will learn how pollutants can move into water supplies following underground aquifers. Key Concepts are: water molecule, hydrologic (water) cycle, groundwater, aquifers, pollution, prevention, point and non-point pollution.
NGSS targeted: K-LS1-1, K-ESS3-3, K-ESS2-2, K-PS3-1, 2-ESS2-3, 5-ESS2-1, 5-ESS2-2, 5-ESS3-1, 5-PS1-1, 6-ESS2-4, 8-ESS3-3

Water Quality Using scientific methods and inquiry, students will conduct qualitative water tests measuring chemical, physical, and biological properties of a stream. Students will analyze the results of the tests and determine whether the water tested complies with standard water quality guidelines. Students will also learn how to determine the rate of stream flow. Key concepts are pollution, qualitative analysis, data, measurement, mathematic conversion, and stream quality parameters.
NGSS targeted: K-LS1-1, K-ESS3-1, K-ESS2-2, 2-LS4-1, 3-LS4-3, 3-LS1-1, 4-LS1-1, 5-PS3-1, 5-LS2-1, 6-LS2-2, 8-LS2-4

Stream Ecology In this course, students will be introduced to the concept of ecology using a stream ecosystem. In the classroom students will study the basic needs of all organisms, and the abiotic and biotic components of the stream ecosystem. With a macroinvertebrate study, students will determine the health of streams on campus. Key Concepts are: ecology, ecosystems, living, non-living and once living stream components, food chains, food pyramids, adaptations, producers, consumers, scavengers, decomposers, macro-invertebrates, collection and observation techniques.
NGSS targeted: K-LS1-1, K-ESS3-1, K-ESS2-2, 2-LS4-1, 3-LS4-3, 3-LS1-1, 4-LS1-1, 5-PS3-1, 5-LS2-1, 6-LS2-2, 8-LS2-4

Mammals Classification, key characteristics, and adaptations of mammals are taught in this class. Using a dichotomous key, students learn how to identify common mammals. Key Concepts are: vertebrates, invertebrates, herbivores, omnivores, carnivores, species diversity, ecosystems, predator-prey relationships, adaptations, structure form and function of mammalian body organs (teeth, rostrum, auditory bulbae etc.) and species identification.
NGSS targeted: K-LS1-1, 3-LS1-1, 4-LS4-1

Animals Students learn about classification of reptiles and amphibians through discussion and hands-on experiences. Students will observe living reptiles and amphibians in this class. Key Con-cepts are: classification, ecosystems, niche, vertebrates, invertebrates, predator-prey relationships, structure, form and function in amphibian and reptile organs, endothermic and ectothermic heat in amphibians and reptiles, behavior, and species diversity.
NGSS targeted: K-LS1-1, K-ESS3-1, K-ESS2-2, 1-LS1-1, 1-LS3-1, 2-LS4-1, 3-LS1-1, 3-LS3-1, 3-LS4-2, 3-LS4-3, 3-LS3-2, 4-LS1-1, 4-LS1-2, 5-LS2-1, 8-LS2-4, 6-LS2-2, 7-LS1-4

Plant Center (Edible and Medicinal Plants) This class emphasizes the importance of plants in nature and the history of the medicinal uses of plants for humans. Students will use primary re-sources to investigate edible and medicinal plants. Key concepts: Plant diversity, photosynthesis, structure, form and function in plants, the sun's energy as the primary source of all energy transfers, and plants role in the human species (food and medicine).
NGSS targeted: 2-LS4-1, 6-LS2-2, 6-PS1-3, 8-LS1-8

Summit Hike During this class students will hike to the summit of Pine Mountain, and visit an overlook with vistas of the Cumberland Plateau. Along the way, students will experience ecosystem dynamics and observe geologic formations. Key Concepts: plant and animal diversity, species, populations, communities, ecosystems, geology, mountain building, geography, and forest succession.
NGSS targeted: K-ESS3-3, K-ESS3-1, K-PS3-1, 2-LS4-1, 3-LS4-3, 3-LS4-4, 4-LS1-1, 4-ESS3-1, 8-LS2-4, 6-LS2-1, 8-ESS3-3, 8-ESS3-4, HS-LS2-6, HS-LS2-7, HS-ESS3-1

Sand Cave Field Trip Students will take a short ride followed by a short hike to visit two small sandstone caves on the summit of Pine Mountain. A great diversity of plant and animal life can be observed both in and outside of the caves. An introduction to the geology/geography of the Appalachians is included with this course. Key Concepts: plant and animal diversity, populations, communities, ecosystems, geology, geography, geologic time, and cave ecology.
NGSS targeted: K-ESS3-1, 2-LS4-1, 2-ESS1-1, 3-LS4-3, 3-LS3-2, 4-ESS4-1, 4-ESS2-1, 6-LS2-1, 6-ESS2-2, 6-ESS2-3


Geology/Coal Students are introduced to an overview of geology with a focus on plate tectonics. A discussion on the formation of coal and use of fossil fuels will be presented and a short campus hike will help students understand layering in rock, soils, and minerals that make up Pine Mountain. Key concepts: geology, fossils, landforms, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock types, plate tectonics, mining techniques and extraction methods and environmental impacts of these on the environment.
NGSS targeted: K-PS-2-1, K-ESS3-3, K-ESS2-2, 2-ESS1-1, K-2ETS1-1, 4-ESS3-1, 4-ESS1-1, 4-ESS2-1, 4-ESS-2-2, 5-ESS2-1, 5-ESS3-1, 8-LS4-1, 8-ESS1-4, 6-ESS2-2, 6-ESS2-3, 6-ESS2-1, 8-ESS3-4, 8-ESS3-1, 8-ESS3-3, HS-ESS2-1

Night Hike Students will experience the forest from a different perspective while hiking through the forest after the sun sets. Using all five senses, students will learn how certain animals are specially adapted to thrive in the dark. Key concepts: adaptation, predator prey relationships, classification, ecosystem, niche, mammals, birds, amphibians, herbivore omnivore, carnivore.
NGSS targeted: K-LS1-1, K-ESS2-2, 2-LS4-1, 3-LS4-3, 1-PS4-2, 4-PS3-3, 4-LS1-1, 4-LS1-2, 6-LS2-1, 6-LS2-2, 8-LS1-8, 8-LS2-4

Orienteering After instruction in using a map compass, students will navigate an outdoor orienteering course, using compass bearings and and natural landmarks to navigate from one point another. Student will also learn to measure and estimate distances. Key concepts: compass, magnetism, cardinal points, geometric designs, compass bearings, measurement, descriptive dialogue, teamwork, and problem solving.
NGSS targeted: 2-PS2-3, 7-PS2-5




Classes About the Cultural Environment


Native Americans This class introduces the history of Native Americans in North America. Stu-dents will use local artifacts to investigate the traditions and cultures of native peoples, and simulate hunting and gathering activities. Key Concepts: pre-historic culture, migration mega-fauna, nomadic vs sedentary societies, edible plants, archeology, artifacts
Kentucky Core Content (Version 4.1) areas targeted: SS-04 2.1.1, 2.3.1, 4.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.1.3, 4.4.1, 5.1.1, 5.2.2, 5.2.3, 5.2.4 SS-05 2.1.1, 2.3.1, 4.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.1.3, 4.4.1, 5.1.1, 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.2.3, 5.2.4. SS-07 4.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.2.1, 4.4.1, 4.4.2, 5.1.1, 5.1.2. SS-08 4.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.2.1, 4.4.1, 4.4.2, 5.1.1, 5.1.2.

Early Settlers Students will learn about the immigrants who settled in the Appalachian Region and what life was like for them. Using hands-on activities, students learn how the settlers constructed housed, made clothes and essential household items, and raised their food. Key Concepts: early settlement patterns, folk ways, Wilderness Road, Cumberland Gap, Daniel Boone, weaving, self-sufficiency.
Kentucky Core Content (Version 4.1) areas targeted: SS-04 2.1.1, 2.3.1, 4.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.1.3, 4.4.1, 5.1.1, 5.2.2, 5.2.4. SS-05 2.1.1, 2.3.1, 4.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.1.3, 4.4.1, 5.1.1, 5.2.2, 5.2.4. SS-07 4.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.2.1, 4.4.1, 4.4.2, 5.1.1, 5.2.2, 5.2.4. SS-08 4.1.1, 4.1.2, 4.2.1, 4.4.1, 4.4.2, 5.1.1, 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.2.4.

Folk Dance Students are introduced to the history of traditional country dances that were brought by immigrants from Europe to the United States. In the living room of Laurel House, students will learn folk dances and play party games.
Kentucky Core Content (Version 4.1) areas targeted: AH-04 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 2.2.1, 3.2.1, 3.4.1, 4.2.1, 4.2.2, 4.2.3. AH-05 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 2.2.1, 3.2.1, 3.4.1, 4.2.1, 4.2.2, 4.2.3. AH-06 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 2.2.1, 3.2.1, 3.4.1, 4.2.1, 4.2.2, 4.2.3. AH-07 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 2.2.1, 3.2.1, 3.4.1, 4.2.1, 4.2.2, 4.2.3. AH-08 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 2.2.1, 3.2.1, 3.4.1, 4.2.1, 4.2.2, 4.2.3.

Storytelling This activity is offered as an evening program. Students will listen to stories of the Appalachian region from talented storytellers of the area.
Kentucky Core Content (Version 4.1) areas targeted: AH-04 1.1.2, 2.1.1, 3.1.1. AH-05 1.1.2, 2.1.1, 3.1.1. AH-06 1.1.2, 2.1.1, 3.1.1. AH-07 1.1.2, 2.1.1, 3.1.1. AH-08 1.1.2, 2.1.1, 3.1.1.

Crafts Pine Mountain Settlement School's staff offer instruction on several traditional Appalachian crafts including spinning, weaving, woodcarving, corn shuck crafts, and stained glass. Additional fees may apply.
Kentucky Core Content (Version 4.1) areas targeted: AH -04 1.4.1, 1.4.2, 2.4.1, 3.4.1, 4.4.1, 4.4.2.
AH-05 1.4.1, 1.4.2, 2.4.1, 3.4.1, 4.4.1, 4.4.2. AH-06 1.4.1, 1.4.2, 2.4.1, 3.4.1, 4.4.1, 4.4.2, AH-07 1.4.1, 1.4.2, 2.4.1, 3.4.1, 4.4.1, 4.4.2. AH-08 1.4.1, 1.4.2, 2.4.1, 3.4.1, 4.4.1, 4.4.2.

Appalachian Toys — Students are introduced to various handmade traditional toys used by early settler children. Many of the toys teach self-reliance and lessons of morality. This activity is presented through hands-on demonstration and storytelling.
Kentucky Core Content (Version 4.1) areas targeted: SS-04-3.1.1