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St. John Students Study Tetons Ecosystems

Oct 23, 2014 10:09AM ● Published by Julie Slama

“It’s place-based education where our students investigated soil samples from different communities, studied mountain ranges and glacier lakes, learned about plants and animals and made connections,” Fries said.

About 80 St. John the Baptist eighth-graders donned jackets to explore the outdoors as their classroom at Grand Teton National Park and its surroundings.

During the school’s ninth annual trip to the Teton Science School Sept. 21 through Sept. 24, the students had the opportunity to explore ecosystems, energy transfer and earth science, which matches the state core curriculum, eighth-grade science teacher Matt Fries said.

“It’s place-based education where our students investigated soil samples from different communities, studied mountain ranges and glacier lakes, learned about plants and animals and made connections,” Fries said. “While doing this interactive learning, they were learning other skills, such as teamwork, communication and leadership.”

Fries said students were split into groups and were led by Teton School instructors in studying the national park. Some students learned how to read maps, use GPSs or look through spotting scopes for the first time. Students also were challenged by hikes and through a low ropes course.

“The first time through the ropes course, they were trying just to prove they could do it. The second and third times, they were helping each other out, encouraging everyone to be successful,” he said.

Students completed a workbook and had the opportunity to draw or write creatively as they waited at sunset for wildlife to emerge.

“This gave us a strong background in what we’ll study, whether it’s plant adaptations, photosynthesis or learning about lodgepole pinecones dispersing after a wildfire, and, at the same time, it created a bond amongst the students. They may have been partnered with students they never would have talked to in the school hallways and now, they share this same tie. It’s an amazing experience,” Fries said. 
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