Science teachers spend week in Yellowstone studying climate change

2012-08-18T21:00:00Z 2012-08-18T23:27:10Z Science teachers spend week in Yellowstone studying climate changeBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A week in Yellowstone National Park with a bunch of climate scientists is how Shirley Greene, a biology teacher at Lewis and Clark Middle School, spent her summer vacation.

"It's incredible," Greene said. "We've been talking to scientists, traveling around the park."

The teachers finished their week at the park on Friday. They'll return home just in time for classes to begin Wednesday, energized for the coming school year.

Greene attended the weeklong workshop with her husband, Steve Greene, who teaches earth science at West High and colleague Trish Loken, who also teaches biology at Lewis and Clark.

The program at Yellowstone is part of the 12-park program called 2012 Parks Climate Change Challenge sponsored by the National Park Foundation.

Loken and the Greenes were part of a group of 15 public school teachers selected to attend the program at Yellowstone. Shirley Greene, a member of the Montana Science Teachers Association, found out about the program through the group and applied.

The Parks Climate Change Challenge program is designed to help teachers develop engaging lesson plans, create hands-on service projects and plan field trips to help students better understand climate change and develop a strong connection to the national parks, said Al Nash, a Yellowstone National Park spokesman.

The group spent time with park scientists and staff from Montana State University covering everything from geology to biology.

Wednesday they learned about the vanishing biomes of the mountain pika, which has steadily moved its habitat up in elevation as temperatures increase.

"At some point you get to the top of the mountain and there's nowhere else to go," Greene said.

Thursday, the group chased bears. Well, they searched out bear habitats and sources of bear food, Greene said.

"We're drinking from a fire hose," she said of all the new knowledge.

She's excited to take back to the classroom the things she's learned, convinced it will help her teaching and bring energy to the classroom. She's hopeful that her students will sense some of that enthusiasm and become equally engaged.

"This gets the kids excited because it's something local," she said.

Greene is looking at planning a field trip down to the Yellowstone River where they can study some of the same things she encountered at the park.

And hopefully, she and Loken will be able to expand some of the school's curriculum to include the techniques and information they brought back from the weeklong program.

"It's just been great," she said.  

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