From Yellowstone to the Classroom
Aug. 20, 2009 -- A dozen Colorado school teachers went to study elk and wolves in Yellowstone this summer, and they are bringing back what they learned to the classroom.
Kevin Kiefer (left) from Centennial Middle School in Montrose and Ellen Gerton (right) from Olathe Middle School in Yellowstone
The trip was part of the Rocky Mountain Math and Science Partnership, a project created and directed by Dr. Mark Lung and funded by the No Child Left Behind Act.
This past weekend the middle school teachers, who are from across the Western Slope, got together at Western State College to translate their field
experiences to classroom activities.
"The goal of the project is to get kids doing science," Mark Lung, professor of biology at Western said.
Lung started the project three years ago. "There is so much time spent memorizing in science classes. Kids need to be included in the process of actually doing science. I thought why not include science teachers in my research (in Yellowstone)."
Lung has been studying the effect of wolves on elk behaviors and habitat use in Yellowstone for the last ten years. This July, in Yellowstone, Colorado teachers were helping him design the study, gathering data, using Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software.
While meeting at Western this weekend they discussed using similar equipment in their classrooms. In addition to the above mentioned equipment teachers are designing and implementing lessons that actively engage students in science using portable weather gauges, incline planes and soil sampling tools. Purchasing of this gear has also been made possible through the No Child Left Behind Act.
Gina Pollard, who teaches physical science at Gunnison Middle School, was one of the local participants. "My experience in Yellowstone taught me the process from beginning to end of thinking like a scientist," she said. "Another benefit was building collegial relationships with other science teachers. Having discussions with others in the field of science and teaching is invaluable."
Lung feels that this program will help young students in the classroom, "A lot of these students are just talked to in classrooms; most of them are not doing science. This program will help teachers structure a class in which students are practicing science."
Story by: Luke Mehall, assistant director of public relations