There is often little connection between the scientific community and the general public. Scientists can have trouble relating their findings in “plain English” that is easily understood by the public. However, such understanding is critical to the proper management of public resources, such as our wildlife. Jackson Hole is home to one of few pristine and intact ecosystems left in the United States. Because of this, many biologists use this valley as their wild laboratory and numerous studies take place here. The underlying theme for most wildlife studies in Jackson Hole is that they are designed to help provide sound, defensible knowledge about issues threatening our ecosystem. Unfortunately, the communities for which these studies were ultimately designed to help are rarely informed of the results or even informed of the studies themselves. Our educational programs are designed to help fix this problem.
This year, younger learners had the opportunity to explore their local environment through habitat and tracking lessons. Older students used real-life data from the Teton Cougar Project, as well as from our lead toxicology studies, to learn about the scientific method and about how to analyze and present data. An internship program took student involvement a step further, bringing students into the office and the field. The results of our program have been heartening: students’ scientific literacy has improved by an average of 39%, and teacher requests for program involvement have jumped by 60%. Students admit that they’re having fun learning the methodologies of research while also building relationships across social boundaries that they otherwise wouldn’t have broached.
High School Integrated Wildlife Research & Education Program - The program is designed to integrate our on-going scientific wildlife studies into local high school classrooms. We are using on-going tracking studies with bald eagles and cougars to allow students to follow them in real-time and learn about raptors, migration, cougar ecology, conservation issues, and applied scientific study design.
Elementary School Programs - This program provides educational resources, activities, and outdoor experiences to 2nd and 4th grade classrooms. We are teaching within the curriculum standards on habitat use, water conservation, mammal’s life history, tracking, migration, and trapping techniques. The elementary programs are conducted through partnerships with other educational programs including the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, pARTners, The Wildlife Film Festival, 1% for the Tetons, and The Cougar Fund. Together, we’re building a community of youth, educators, and wildlife scientists.
Online Educational Resources - We’re collaborating with Bear Trust International to develop extended online lesson plans and curriculum guides that features an array of wildlife research, including bears, cougars, raptors, songbirds, spiders, ungulates, and habitats.
Gobi Bear Ecology Book and Teacher's Guide - Designed for place-based education, we have created a unique curriculum for Mongolian schools and teachers using data from the Gobi Bear Project. The lessons assemble many ecological concepts including life cycles, habitat, ecosystems, food chain events, adaptations, and previewing linked ecosystems around the globe.