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Teton's Science School Staff Development


How many times have teachers been to a staff development, and they come away saying, "What a waste of my day!"  It is rare to attend training that is life changing, but thanks to Real School Gardens, B.R.I.T., and the Rainwater Foundation at least one teacher from every grade level at our school has attended this transformative experience at the Tetons Science School in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

[image] Tetons Science School


On the first day, we arrived in Coyote Canyon.  After the blistering July heat in Texas, the cool mountain air rejuvinated us.  We were ready to take the hike up to Inspiration Point in the Grand Tetons National Park.

[image] Eleizabeth on ferry ride   [image] In Front of Waterfall

Ms Kelley, our fourth grade teacher grinned as she took the ferry across the lake to the base of the trail.  About half way up, Ms Clegg (fifth grade), Ms Barnes (third grade), Ms Senecal (second grade) and Principal Henderson stood in the cool mist of the waterfall.  This was our first lesson: How to saunter, which is the pace of a naturalist. 

[image] Susan and Elizabeth   [image] Laurie resting

Those of us who made it to the top were rewarded with a fantastic view.  Lesson Two: This is how people learn about a place.  They walk the ground, they feel the spray of water and they hear the sounds of the wildlife. 

[image] station 1: Place Based Education

The next day we moved from station to station learning the components of place based education.

[image] Penny experiment  [image] Henderson in boots

In the afternoon we reviewed the scientific method, and used tools and gear to collect data.  The science school made three ponds from reclaimed gravel quarries.  It was good to see how beauty could be restored.

[image] 3 swans

We used maps to trace the watershed of the Coyote Canyon area.  Lesson 3: Learning about water sources is an important part of place based education.  We learned about the lay of the land from maps as well.

 [image] watershed lesson

Lesson 4: Take time to reflect.  The rocking chairs are part of the curriculum at the Tetons Science School.  They allow us to slow down and think while we relax. 

[image] Latisha journaling

If our training had stopped here, we would have had more than enough of an amazing experience.  We stayed a week in Coyote Canyon.  Lesson 5: Learn the local businesses.  We were treated to an amazing meal at a local restaurant.  

[image] Local Cuisine    [image] garden at Restaurant

Wayne Turner chose the restaurant because it has its own garden from which it uses herbs and seasonal vegetables.  We had to take pictures to compare their garden to ours.  We were surprised they did not use pathway composting as we do in our garden at school.

Already this staff development had turned into a wonderful vacation, but could there be even more?  How about a trip down the Snake River in a raft?

[image] Rafting

Lesson 6: There is no more powerful teaching tool than seeing nature in action.  We had always heard of the tremendous energy in flowing water, yet it is something else to witness how the course of a river changes by the moment.  We saw wildlife on that river experience that we had only seen in books or films before.

[image] Murie House

The setting for our strategic planning session was at the home of Mardy and Olaus Murie, the naturalists who began the conservation movement in the United States.

[image] Making Plans

All the participant groups made plans to implement place based education when they returned to their home schools.  And yet, there was still time in the day for sauntering, reflection and journaling.

 [image] Like a naturalist[image] Journal entry

We were all thankful for the experiences at the Tetons Science School and we wrote notes to Susie Peacock and the Rainwater Foundation.   By the end of the week, we realized that although the Tetons are far from our home, they belong to us too.  We have walked the ground, seen the animals, and learned to love the trees and the flowers.

Our team bonded during the week.  Not only did it make us more aware of the importance of getting children outside, but it made us more dedicated as a group.  Most of the teachers who have been to the Tetons either in 2009 or 2010 that have written the outdoor lab curriculum at the school.  It is these teachers and others with the same spirit, who enthusiastically volunteered to publish articles to show everyone how powerful a "green" education can be.  We have been deeply touched by our experiences and we hope to pass on the love of the land to the children we teach.

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