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Contact: Jackie Skaggs, 307.739.3393
April 27, 2011
Over the past few months, ranger naturalists brought the winter world of Grand Teton National Park to classrooms across the United States. Rangers made "virtual visits" to classrooms in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wyoming by using video conferencing technology. Although some of the locations were experiencing more spring-like weather, students were transported live to Moose, Wyoming where temperatures were generally sub-freezing during broadcasts outside of the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. Each classroom held a special connection to Grand Teton because their teachers were past participants in the National Park Service (NPS) Teacher to Ranger to Teacher (TRT) program.
The TRT program provides an opportunity for teachers to work as national park rangers during summer months and take their newfound knowledge of national parks back to classrooms for the school year. Teachers develop and present curriculum-based lesson plans that focus on their park experience and participate in distance learning sessions via video broadcasts. Because of their summer work in Grand Teton, each teacher was able to prep their students with pertinent information before the virtual visit and also extend the learning experience after the broadcast.
Through this unique distance learning program, over 500 students were able to learn about and connect with Grand Teton National Park-a place that few of the students have ever visited. Youngsters from 3rd through 10th grade interacted with rangers who broadcasted live and outside with the snow-covered Teton Range and Jackson Hole valley as a backdrop. Rangers created a frozen stage by leveling out an area in the snow for demonstrations and by carving a "snow desk" complete with an NPS arrowhead. From this frozen stage, and the "snow desk," rangers taught the students about animal survival during the harsh winter climate of Jackson Hole and demonstrated each adaptation using props. Students learned how winter conditions change the way everything (plants, animals and people) survives in Grand Teton.
During the 35-minute video conference broadcast, rangers and students were able to interact visually and verbally. To enhance the learning experience and reach different learning styles, each classroom was also provided with props such as animal pelts, wildlife photographs, park maps and educational newspapers. To facilitate the broadcast, each classroom only needed a computer with access to the internet, a web cam, microphone, speakers, and the appropriate video conference software.
The success of this program is tribute to the TRT participants who worked hard to fit this innovative program into their specific school curriculum and busy schedules. With past successes and potential new TRT participants, Grand Teton rangers hope to expand the "snow desk" broadcasts to other schools and students next winter. To learn more about TRT programs, visit http://www.nps.gov/learn/trt/.