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Always room to learn: Swains Lockhouse rehab to provide space for Park’s Canal Classrooms program

The Swains Lockhouse rehabilitation will be special for many reasons: Its beautiful setting, rich history, access for the disabled, and perfect timing—as a tribute to the National Park’s 100th birthday. But there’s another feature of Swains that could have a positive impact for many years to come…

hollieThe first floor of Swains includes an addition to the original lockhouse, which is being rehabilitated as a National Park Service (NPS) Canal Classrooms learning center. Here, elementary school-aged children will take part in activities that help them appreciate the Canal and the role it played in history. Hopefully, their experiences here and along the Canal itself will create generations of new advocates for Canal preservation.

A smart collaboration

The Canal Classrooms program is a success story in itself. It was developed by the Park Service but was brought to life through partnerships with surrounding school systems and supporting organizations such as the C&O Canal Trust.

“We had many hurdles to clear to get the program off the ground,” said Hollie Lynch, NPS Education Program Coordinator, “but everyone wanted it to succeed. With the hard work of many, we made it happen.”

One of the toughest challenges was staffing. The innovative solution was the creation of the Canal Classroom Corps, a mix of enthusiastic rangers, teachers, and volunteers who deliver existing curriculum-based on-site programs to groups as large as 200. Teachers and volunteers hold current certificates in elementary or secondary education or have experience in teaching. Teachers receive a stipend from the C&O Canal Trust.

A rich learning environment

“The Canal provides endless learning opportunities in history and science, from plant and wildlife to the workings of a lock to the lifestyles of Canal boat captains and their families,” said Hollie.

Canal Classrooms hosts groups of up to 200 students that meet in Williamsport and other locations along the Canal. Last year, the program served over 8,000 students. The new Swains lockhouse will provide a learning facility in one of the most popular parts of the park.

“Its hard to gauge the long-term impact a visit to a national park may have on students,” Hollie said, “but we know the canal is a valuable resource that students are fascinated learning about. For many kids, it may be their first time visiting their “backyard” national park, for others, they learn about a place where they fish, bike or walk their dog and develop a new appreciation and love for their local heritage.”

Learn more about the Canal Classrooms program here.

Next Time

Check back next week when we will debut our Lockhouse 22 video!