Through this distance learning program, over 400 students were able to learn about and connect with Grand Teton National Park—a place that few of the students have actually visited. Some classrooms had a connection to Grand Teton because their teachers were past participants in the National Park Service’s (NPS) Teacher-Ranger-Teacher Program—a summer program that brings classroom educators to national parks to work as interpretive park rangers.
Students from kindergarten to 5th grade interacted with Grand Teton rangers, who broadcasted live from an actual desk carved in snow with the Teton Range as backdrop. Rangers created their ‘Snowdesk’ set by leveling out an area for demonstrations and by shaping the desk out of snow, complete with an NPS arrowhead. From this snowy set, Rangers Kristen Dragoo and Sarah Carter taught students about park wildlife and their winter adaptations, while Ranger Julie Stetson gave field demonstrations. Students learned how the cold and wintry Teton environment affects the survival of all living things (plants, animals and people). Using Skype video conferencing technology, rangers and students were able to interact with each other visually and verbally during each 30-minute broadcast. To reach different learning styles and enhance the experience, animal pelts, wildlife photographs, park maps, and park newspapers were previously loaned to each classroom.
Classrooms used their own technology to connect with this video conference program. Each classroom only needed a computer with access to the internet, a web cam, microphone, speakers, and access to Skype.
In a new effort this year, park rangers implemented a snow desk program for a teacher workshop at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. This outreach program was designed to introduce educators about the benefit of teaching science to students using technology and curricula based on national parks. With its past successes, Grand Teton National Park hopes to expand distance learning programs to other schools next winter, as well as promote efforts to work with other national parks.
Schools wishing to participate in Grand Teton National Park’s ‘Snowdesk’ during the 2013/2014 winter season should call 307.739.3349.