Dual-Credit Students Get Firsthand Research Experience
While there was barely a snowflake in sight on Principia School’s campus during January, some Upper School students found themselves more than knee-deep in snow during an experiential learning adventure in Jackson, Wyoming. This annual week of on-site, hands-on scientific research, analysis, and reporting is based at the renowned Teton Science Schools (TSS) and is part of Upper School’s advanced-level Field and Natural History class (at no additional charge to families).
Some variation of the “Teton Trip”—as it’s commonly known—has been offered to generations of Upper School students almost every year since 1982. In 2015, however, what had previously been an optional, interdisciplinary trip was intentionally transformed into a focused, experiential activity tied to Field and Natural History (for which students receive both high school and transferable college credit).
Teacher Lynne Scott (C’01) is a veteran of these trips, having co-led at least three in recent years, and greatly appreciates the partnership with TSS, which hosts Principia’s group and provides instructors and guides. During a very full week, the students complete and report on a research project—in addition to getting in some skiing and snowshoeing in Grand Teton National Park and visits to several wildlife museums in the area.
This year, students divided into three groups to collect and analyze data on different research topics:
- Gait and sinuousity of predators and prey: One group looked for, observed, and documented the tracks of predators and prey in two riparian communities (habitats by a river or stream) and documented the differences.
- Thermal index of snow: In order to determine which ecological community is best for subnivean life (in and under snowpack), a second group calclated the thermal index of snow by counting and measuring each layer of snow, observing crystal size, and taking temperature readings
- Fox activity in settled vs. remote areas: The third group tracked fox tracks around TSS’s Kelly Campus (in Teton National Park) and compared the information to tracks in more remote areas.
All of these studies were field-based but were also tied to peer-reviewed findings during final presentations.
“Students did a fantastic job with the research,” Scott wrote on the trip blog. “They took it seriously, asked excellent questions of one another, and drew connections between each of the projects.”
And nature had a special reward for the group after a rather overcast week. On the night before their presentations, the skies cleared and the stars came out in abundance—perfect timing for their meeting with an astronomer who brought along a powerful telescope and shared a wealth of information. Last but not least, the night before departure, the students spotted wolf tracks!
The Teton Trips, Scott observes, produce a variety of positive outcomes—students’ deepened understanding of place, community, and human interactions and an expanded ability to communicate their insights. In an effort to make these outcomes available to all students, Principia initiated a multiyear professional development partnership with TSS this past fall, with 15 Principia educators from across grade levels participating in a two-day workshop on the School campus. A follow-up workshop will be held later this month.
Enjoy this selection of photos from the trip.