Little Greenbrier School provides trip back in history and hiking opportunities

June 11, 2014

Little Greenbrier School - photo by Julie Dodd

by Julie Dodd

Little Greenbrier School interior
Little Greenbrier School was built in 1882 and used as a community school until 1936. Photo by Julie Dodd

Visiting the Little Greenbrier School in the Metcalf Bottoms area is a great way to step back in time – and an opportunity for some hiking, too.

Just sitting in the school gives you a perspective of the school experience in the early 1900s – with wooden desks and a real blackboard (boards painted black).

For a more complete school experience, attend one of Robin Goddard’s presentations at the school on Tuesdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Goddard is at the school on Tuesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the presentations and to answer questions.

Goddard, who is a retired fifth- and sixth-teacher from the Blount County School System (Maryville, Tenn.), dresses up in the attire of an early 1900s school teacher, rings the school bell, and provides lessons about life for the students and the families who lived in the area in the early 1900s.

Robin Goddard rings school belll
Robin Goddard rings the school bell to call visitors to attend the presentations she makes on the history of the Little Greenbrier School. NPS photo

Robin Goddard – volunteer teacher

I asked Goddard about what children and adults find most interesting when they hear her presentations.

“Children and adults love hearing the stories of what was taught and the schedule of the day. They also love the fact that children only went to school six weeks to three to four months in the winter only. The entire experience is related to Little House on the Prairie!

“When I make presentations to school groups, we use the ‘slate’ (chalk) boards for Math and Writing lessons and have an old fashioned spelling bee. The children enjoy seeing and playing with the old-fashioned toys.

“Most adults want to hear stories of the Walker Sisters and ask many questions concerning their lives and personalities. [The Walker Sisters’ home is 1.1 miles from the school, following a gravel and dirt road.]

“Adults also love learning about old harp (shaped-note) music, and men love
seeing the tools and the size of the logs that are in the schoolhouse.

“My programs are never the same. I always have something different depending on
the audience.

Robin Goddard makes presentation in Little Greenbrier School
Wearing the attire of an early 1900s school teacher, Robin Goddard talks about what life was like for those who lived in the Little Greenbrier community. NPS photo

“I love to teach and to learn. It is a joy to teach all of our visitors about our wonderful treasure — The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“I also present many Junior Ranger and Not-So-Junior-Ranger badges and certificates, especially during the summer months.

“About 500-700 people visit the Little Greenbrier School every Tuesday. Many hike in from Metcalf Bottoms and the rest drive and park in the parking spaces by the school. I usually average 50 to 100 for each program. It just depends, and you never can predict what’s going to happen.”

Goddard receives national award

Goddard has been a Great Smoky Mountains National Park volunteer for 44 years. For her service, she received the National George B. Hartzog Jr. Award for Enduring Volunteer Service in 2013.

She has been making presentations at Little Greenbrier School since the early 1990s. Goddard also helps with the Discover Life in America’s All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, monitoring salamander species.

Metcalf Bottoms Trail in the Smokies
The Metcalf Bottoms Trail goes from the parking lot near the picnic area to Little Greenbrier School. This section of the trail is lined by mountain laurel and rhododendron. Photo by Julie Dodd

Hike to Little Greenbrier School

The walk to Little Greenbrier School from the Metcalf Bottoms parking lot on the Metcalf Bottoms Trail is a reminder of the kind of walking that school children did to reach school in the days before school buses and parents driving children to school. The roundtrip walk from the parking lot is about 1.5 miles.

The trail has a few hills but not steep climbs. Some sections of the trail have exposed roots. You’ll be able to enjoy the creek that runs beside much of the trail, walk across two log bridges, and see a variety of plants and trees.

Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization has been helping to preserve and protect Great Smoky Mountains National Park by raising funds and awareness and recruiting volunteers for needed projects.

Over the last 21 years, support from Friends of the Smokies members, sponsors, donors, and Tennessee and North Carolina specialty license plate owners has totaled more than $44 million. To see this year’s list of Park Support Projects visit Friends of the Smokies website.