February 10, 2012
Do you know what “subnivian” means? Sophie Collins (Walden class of 2012) can tell you that there is a thin layer of air between the snow cover and the actual surface of the soil, where life can sustain itself through the long winter in Grand Teton National Park. With her science teacher, Drew Gagne, and her classroom teachers, Danica Dermott and Marcia Van, Collins and her fourteen classmates flew to Jackson Hole, Wyoming on January 29 to spend a week at Teton Science School. Six days of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, while studying different habitats of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem gave Walden students real-life field experience in collecting data for science.
A simple game of “hide-and-seek” became an adventurous data sample collection exercise, as students made predictions about which habitat would be the best place for elk to hide from predators in the winter. After hypothesizing, the students scrambled on their skis to hiding spots, while the Teton Science School guide counted to twenty with her eyes covered. After playing the game in a field, an aspen forest, and a fir forest, students determined that elk would probably have the best cover available in the fir forest.
With evening education programs on tracking, wolf sustainability, night adaptations of animals, and communication, the students concluded their weeklong study by presenting their data and analyzing the results. Days were spent in the field with lunch carried in backpacks and waterproof field journals were used to document their studies each day.