We were excited to recently take local youth on two excursions up to visit the National Park in their own backyard. Two different teams of volunteers led intentional hikes on Wednesday, July 27 and Friday, July 29. The hikes were planned as a way to familiarize the youth with the landscape of Sherman Reservation (the 4th largest segment of the Chickamauga National Battlefield), and also to gather impressions and feedback about their direct experience within the park using the popular method for reflection and inquiry known as Design Thinking. In keeping with first stage of Design Thinking, the GHC facilitators wanted to empathize with what a local visitor’s actual experience of exploring Sherman Reservation brings up.

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Each day we had six adult leaders there to ask questions of the young visitors, and to provide prompts and answer questions from the kids about the monuments, canons, signs, and wildlife they encountered. Overall, the visitors seemed to enjoy the outing both days, although both groups had questions about why the access road seems blocked because of the gate preventing vehicles from driving up.

It naturally turned out that Wednesday’s group focused more on plant life, while Friday’s groups were more interested in the history. Both days, visitors remarked that they could sense the battleground feeling of the place, and described what they would enjoy about returning during various seasons throughout the year. They were particularly eager to come when they’d be able to see the view, during the bareness of winter.

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Nikki Lewis, as leader of both activities, compiled the written and drawn impressions from the visitors to gather the voices of the kids. She hopes to convey to the community youth that progress is a slow process, but one they can affect.  Keeping an open flow communication with the kids will allow the community to understand that their input and vision matters regarding future park design.