Personal Enrichment

Smoky Mountain Field School

Program Overview

In 2024, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the University of Tennessee celebrate the 47th anniversary of the Smoky Mountain Field School with another year of exceptional educational offerings.

This long-standing partnership has been host to many knowledge-seekers eager to spend time with an expert in the Smokies.

Courses are held on Saturdays for your convenience.

Anyone age 18 and older can enroll.

Program Description

The Smoky Mountain Field School offers many unique opportunities to Explore, Learn, and Enjoy in one of the nation’s premier national parklands through indoor workshops and outdoor field adventures.

Bring your inquisitive mind, an adult family member or friend, and a passion for adventure and become part of the Field School’s family of participants.

Get to know your national park, its landscape, wildlife, history, culture, and intrinsic value to humankind while renewing your inner spirit.

In addition to the Field School programs listed below, the UT Center for Professional Education & Lifelong Learning partners with the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont to offer the Southern Appalachian Naturalist Certification Program. This eight-course program provides fundamental and specialty skills in Southern Appalachian ecology and interpretive techniques.

Meet Your Instructors

Wanda DeWaard

Wanda DeWaard is an outdoor educator who has shared Environmental Awareness and Earth Kinship with community groups, schools, camps, environmental centers, and teacher conferences since 1974. She holds an M.Ed. in Environmental Education from the Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and the State University of New York at Cortland. Wanda has created and directed youth and family programs all over the U.S. as well as in Canada and Germany.

In the past, she has been program director at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and executive director for the American Camp Association Heart of the South. She currently works as an educator and consultant in the Great Smoky Mountains area with a focus on Outdoor Education, Earth Skills, and Earth Kinship. She often teaches for the Smoky Mountain Field School, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, and the Great Smoky Mountains Association. Wanda also volunteers her time teaching about monarch butterflies, pollinator gardening, and citizen science projects.

Liz Domingue

Liz Domingue has over 30 years of experience as a professional naturalist, nature photographer, guide, writer, and environmental educator. Her interest in, and study of, natural history has been her lifelong pursuit and passion. Liz has honed her skills as a naturalist since early childhood and has gained extensive outdoor experience while conducting scientific research, hiking, backpacking, paddling, and photographing wildlife and their natural habitats.

She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife biology from Cornell University and a Master of Science degree in wildlife ecology and conservation biology from the University of Florida. As the founder and operator of Just Get Outdoors, Liz has shared her passion for the natural world with others for over 20 years.

Ila Hatter

Ila Hatter is an interpretive naturalist, artist, storyteller, wildcrafter, and gourmet cook with over 35 years of experience teaching the cultural heritage of native plants. She is the producer of Roadside Rambles, a wild foods cookbook, and a video series titled “Wild Edibles and Medicinals of Southern Appalachia.” She hosted three folkways programs for PBS/UNC-TV and has appeared on RFDTV, Turner South, and A&E. You can learn more about Ila at

Joey Holt

Joey Holt grew up in the foothills of the Smokies where he developed a love for the outdoors. Joey has two passions: hiking and black bears. He began hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2002 and earned his 900-miler status in 2012. He has also hiked the Cherokee National Forest, Pisgah National Forest, the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness Area, and parts of the Appalachian Trail.

He has been guiding hikes for over 15 years and he is also a hiking guide, a trail sweep, and a presenter for Wildlife Wilderness Week in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. During his hikes, Joey developed a deep appreciation for black bears. This appreciation led him to volunteer with the Appalachian Bear Rescue, a non-profit organization that takes in injured and orphaned cubs until they are healthy enough to be released back into the wild. He began volunteering as an ABR educator in 2008 and served on the ABR Board of directors from 2009-2018. He has led programs for the Smoky Mountain Field School since 2011.

Steve Kemp & Janet Rock

Steve Kemp is a retired interpretive products and services director for the Great Smoky Mountains Association. He has worked as a ranger and writer/editor in the Smokies and other national parks for most of his adult life and is a frequent contributor to Smokies Life Magazine. Janet Rock is a retired botanist at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She worked as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s official botanist for 28 years and contributed to many publications related to wildflowers and rare and threatened park plants.

This husband-and-wife team currently leads hikes and conducts educational programs for various organizations in the Smokies. Join them for an exploration of the summer wildflowers and ancient forests along the Appalachian Trail or explore fall leaves, colorful fruits, mushrooms, and even a few fall wildflowers in one of the most spectacular old-growth forests in the Smokies.

Joel & Kathy Zachry

Joel and Kathy Zachry have been with the Smoky Mountain Field School since the 1980s, both as directors and instructors. Joel spent his career as a Tennessee community college administrator and field biology professor, while Kathy spent her career as a biomedical engineer, inventor, and medical products executive. Together they have led small backcountry trips beginning in the 1980s to the remote regions of Colorado, Maine, and Montana, as well as Alaska for 25 years. In the mid-’90s Joel spent parts of two summers conducting bear research on Alaska’s Kodiak Island, home to the largest brown bears.

In 1999 they formed their own outdoor travel company, Great Outdoors Adventure! Travel (GOAT), to continue the work that Joel had enjoyed in teaching. They completed section-hiking the 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail in 2005 and released their first book, Bears We’ve Met: Short Stories of Close Encounters, in May 2010. Joel is past president and board member of both the regional Appalachian Bear Rescue in Tennessee and the international Great Bear Foundation in Montana. The Zachrys have been hike leaders at Snowbird Mountain Lodge since 2003 and are among an elite team of experts in residence at The Swag, a Relais Chateaux Lodge in North Carolina, since 2013.

learn more about our beloved Great Smoky Mountains National Park.