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Once Upon
Break Away

Brought to you by Earth Kin Programs

Once Upon A Time Break Away

Welcome to our little slice of heaven in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee!  You will be visiting one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and working on projects that help to protect and enhance this beautiful place that we call home.  The natural and cultural history here in this temperate rainforest is simply amazing and we will celebrate it throughout our time together. 

Once Upon A Time Break Away is about hard work, learning new ideas and skills, having fun, and connecting with a new community through service.  You will be physically active at times and work very hard together.  You might be asked to try a new skill and to consider some unusual ideas.  You will leave with many fun-filled memories and with a sense of kinship with each other and this new place you can call home forever more.  

Our Mission is to introduce students to the natural and cultural history of the Southern Appalachian Mountains through service projects with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, the Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, and Cherokee National Forest. 

Once Upon A Time is an approved host site for Break Away, a national nonprofit organization linking college students with communities to perform service projects addressing a variety of social, cultural, and environmental needs.


Once Upon A Time Break Away began in 2007 and continues to this day in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.   Beginning in 2022, the program is being continued with Earth Kin, an organization that provides outdoor education programs to encourage self and Earth awareness, celebration, kinship, and hope – hope for the Earth, our children and our grandchildren. For more information about Break Away, visit their website at




Break Away is about service and sometimes hard work.  Get dirt on your hands!  Plant a garden!  Rescue the native trees!  Clean up a creek!  Repair a trail!   Build something out of wood or straw bales or mud!  Split firewood!  Build a compost pile!  Paint, dig, hammer, carry, haul, go for it!  Go home with sore muscles and a satisfying sense of accomplishment!



Embrace new cultures and perspectives!  Use a new tool!  Try a new skill you never thought you would use!  Learn a few Cherokee words and phrases!  Sing traditional Appalachian songs!  Identify animal tracks and traces!  Make medicine from a wild plant!  Imitate a new bird call!  Understand the uniqueness of the oldest mountains on the planet!




Explore the forest at night.  Make new friends young and old!  Sing together!  Play the Fish Game!  Read a new book!  Explore new cultures!  Dance!  Learn a new bird call!  Track a deer!  Sit by the fire!  Gaze at the stars!  Draw, paint and create!  Jump into a cold mountain stream!  Cook a meal together that becomes a feast! Take a hike! Explore a cave!




Develop a sense of community with your Break Away group and with this beautiful place in the Smoky Mountains!  Recognize your connection to the natural landscape!  Develop a deep respect for the Earth and for all of her children!  Rediscover your sense of wonder and hope for the natural world around you!

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