The Saratoga Sun -

Science school summer

Teton Science School keeps kids learning, engaged during school break


Center above, Claire Ratcliffe instructs children on what plants can be eaten for survival.

"We have had a relationship with Teton Science School for seven to eight years and it has worked out real well," said Mark Shipp, the Carbon County District No. 2 (CCD2) summer school supervisor, "We have enough students in our schools who haven't gotten a chance to see the beautiful country around us, so we have been doing workshops throughout the year and this science camp is an excellent opportunity for them to get out and find out about the local world around them."

Teton Science Schools (TSS) is an organization in northwest Wyoming and Idaho comprised of seven program areas sharing a common vision of education. TSS is deeply rooted in the outdoors and has educated thousands of children, youths and adults, bringing them together through the study of nature.

The theme for the week was survival and skills needed to exist in different environs. The students went to Veterans Island on Monday, the ghost town of Carbon on Tuesday, Treasure Island on Thursday and the wind farm in nearby Medicine Bow on Friday.

"The kids aren't only learning about skills to survive in the wilderness," said Shipp. "We went to Carbon, a ghost town, to learn how a town survives. When the jobs disappear, the town goes. Today the kids are learning survival in present day and tomorrow we go to the wind farms out by Medicine Bow to learn about the future."

Another aspect of TSS Shipp finds beneficial for the students is because Carbon County District No. 2 is large and diverse with five schools-and students come from all. He likes the kids are meeting and getting to know each other.

"They are making new friends and working together," says Shipp.

Emily Schaller, the leader of all the graduate students, teachers and interns finds TSS an excellent experience for both educators and students.

"This a great experience for the grads and it combines a lot of what they have been learning and putting it into practice in this really awesome place with students that are really excited to be here," said Schaller. "Bottom line is kids getting outside and enjoying their time is the main success of a program like this. They will remember building a fort outside and loving it. Then if they love a place, they will protect it."

Teaching students about outdoors and science is a major goal of TSS.

On Treasure Island the students learned to make shelters, what plants are edible and what steps to take when "chasing a coyote" (going number one outdoors) and "chasing a bear" (going number two). The phrases were made up to take away the embarrassment any child might feel about have to use the outdoors for a bathroom facility.

Kyle Warren, a kindergarten teacher from Hanna said of the TSS, "I think it is cool all these kids get to experience this with people that know so much about being outdoors and outdoor education and get to have an opportunity to be a part of this group."

On Treasure Island after teaching the younger class about science, Claire Ratcliffe, graduate of University of Wyoming and graduate of last year's TSS, set up a treasure hunt. She hid slips of paper, that had clues to the next location of the lead to come if they got the answer correct to the question on the paper.

"We are on Treasure Island, so I am having the kids pretend they are stranded out here and they have been learning about how to get food and shelter, so I thought why not have them go over what they have learned by doing a treasure hunt," said Ratcliffe as she placed the small pieces of colored paper in bushes, logs and on the ground.

Once she was done placing her clues for the treasure the children descended on the area with excitement.

Going to the wind farm was different from being outdoors on Treasure Island.

The students did get to see the turbines and they played wind games outside, but most of the trip was inside a Pacific Corp. classroom setting.

Children look for wood to use for shelters they are going to build on Treasure Island.

Robert Booth, the Supervisor for Wind Operations for Seven Mile Hill 1 and 2, explained wind energy and fielded questions from the class. He says having students come to the farm is one of the favorite facets of his job. It gives them an opportunity to learn about energy that is going to be a part of Wyoming's future.

"I really like to get them interested in wind. Just let them know that is another avenue when they get out of school, maybe they can get into the wind industry," said Booth.

Darrin Jennings, Saratoga Elementary School principal, said the TSS experience at the wind farm was a part of the program that helps students understand wind farms as they become more prevalent in Wyoming.

"The TSS has an amazing an amazing group of instructors and we have a great CCD2 staff from the teachers to the bus drivers, that have just done an excellent job."

As TSS staff left the schools and then made their goodbyes with each other, every one of them said how important the experience had been to them for the past week.


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