Some of Gear Up's related projects, though, are what have brought the program and Crockett the most notoriety, from solar-powered greenhouses on the campus to this latest endeavor.
Phillips has submitted paperwork to the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council and is awaiting an inspection visit, after which he hopes the woods will be certified as a Level 1 arboretum. TUFC records list Sevier County as the only other Tennessee public high school with an arboretum.
"We've got about 36 species of trees identified and labeled (30 are needed for Level 1 status), and I'm hoping by the time Gear Up ends we'll be a Level 2," Phillips said.
Reaching that level would require at least 60 identified and marked tree species, and the creation of a pamphlet with a map showing the trees' locations for self-guided tours.
Phillips isn't too worried about getting there. In fact, Crockett students and faculty have joined the effort to turn the woods into something far more comprehensive than a basic arboretum. Teachers plan to use the data from the wildlife cameras and a tree ring display inside the woods in classes ranging from math and science to agriculture and building trades.
"The tree ring display will hold at least six cross-sections of trees for science classes and community members to look at, and an interpretive placard will explain age rings, how years of wet and dry seasons affect those, what role disease plays - they'll basically explain what story is told in tree rings," Phillips said.
As he has led the summer's work, from building cinderblock walls for the burrow boxes to tree labeling and construction of the kiosk, Phillips has had lots of help, and a near-constant companion has been Dustin Crain, who will be a junior this coming school year. Crain is one of about 600 students in the Gear Up grant "cohort," and has been receiving various grant services since he was in 6th grade.
As the woods work and other outdoor elements of the grant such as a nearby rain garden have taken root, Crain has discovered that he'd "rather be working outside." Gear Up coordinators are taking that interest and helping steer Crain toward college or vocational school choices that will build on those skills and interests.
"Dustin has been invaluable in the development of this," Phillips said. "I couldn't have done it without him."
Activities at the campus warm the heart of Washington County Schools Director Ron Dykes, who was teaching biology at Crockett about 25 years ago when the science and agriculture faculty worked together to create a walking trail.
"We would study the flora and fauna that existed in that little sub-community, beginning with the wetlands community right there at the base of the school," Dykes said. "It became a learning environment in those days, and every decade we've added a little something more. There is a strong intent to continue that live, hands-on educational tactic."
Phillips hopes those learning opportunities will spread beyond the students at Crockett. The computer screen in the kiosk will be open to anyone, and the curious from may be able to watch the habits of possums, raccoons, American kestrels, pileated woodpeckers and the forest's other inhabitants before taking a stroll through the trails.
Phillips has applied for a Tennessee Valley Authority grant that would fund construction of a trail along 1,700 feet of Little Limestone Creek, which flows through the campus next to the woods. That trail would connect two of the longest trails along each end of the forest.
"I'm very interested in creating a partnership between the Washington County schools and the Town of Jonesborough to protect that area and turn it into more of a community park," he said.
In the meantime, he's looking forward to students learning more about the diverse plant life inside the woods - including some stout, towering poplars and red oaks that may be a century or more old - and checking out the evidence the infrared cameras will provide.
"We're banking on the fact that animals are naturally curious, and if they can fit in a hole they'll stick their nose in there - that's what we're hoping they'll do with the burrow box."
For his part, Crain looks forward to helping build a lasting legacy on the campus.
"The science teachers and everybody can bring their classes out here and walk the trails and look at the nature," said Crain, who hopes to pursue a career in forestry or a related field.
"This is a good thing to do for Crockett. Crockett's going to be on the map - everybody's going to be talking about it."
Crain gets no argument from Phillips, Dykes or the Gear Up program's principal overseer, ETSU professor emeritus Judith Hammond.
"This is as invaluable a resource as it is unique," Phillips said. "Nationwide, there are very few schools that have the natural resources available on campus to be able to utilize in their classrooms and the community."
Hammond said the Gear Up organizers weren't real aware of that asset when they started. Hammond credited Crockett teacher Guy McAmis with helping lead Gear Up to integrate the spacious campus into its programs.
"What it does for science education to have these wildlife and natural resources available for education is amazing," Hammond said.
"Mr. McAmis has been our ace in the hole in terms of identifying projects that will be used by the faculty and bring kids outdoors for a wide variety of experience, and this outdoor environment will distinguish Crockett among high schools across the nation."
Dykes certainly hopes so, and said while solid academic programs are the meat and potatoes of a good high school, sometimes the resources to deliver those programs come from other quarters.
"Whether it be an outside learning environment, an exceptional athletic program or a vocational uniqueness that a school has, whatever grabs the attention is necessary in obtaining a buy-in and a belief to support that school, either emotionally or financially."
If its arboretum and other outdoor features like a working farm can help propel Crockett to "magnet school" status and national recognition, Dykes won't be complaining.
"We'll use all of those 'Christmas tree attractants' to obtain attention," he said.