Did you know that Yellowstone National Park is home to the pronghorn, an animal that looks like an antelope and can outrun a cheetah in a marathon?
Or that grizzly bears differ from their black bear counterparts by the humps on their backs? Or that Yellowstone sits atop a volcano?
These and other interesting tidbits were shared with Hambright Elementary School fifth-graders by a Yellowstone park ranger during a live Skype lesson Sept. 29.
About 80 youngsters filled the school’s Academic Commons to listen to Greg Malloure, a ranger who specializes in education outreach to schools.
Eliciting “oohs” and “aahs,” he showed the students the skulls of grizzlies, bison and wolves, elk antlers and bear skins. He also had them identify photos of the many unique land formations of Yellowstone, America’s oldest national park.
“They were amazed by the size of the animals and shocked by their proportions, in relation to the size of Ranger Greg,” said Katie Lutz, a Hambright fifth-grader teacher who arranged the lesson.
Thanks to the Skype link, the fifth-graders were able to ask Malloure questions on the spot – and vice versa. The lesson fulfilled one of the fifth-grade teaching team’s goals of incorporating the knowledge of experts to deepen student understanding and provide authentic learning experiences.
“The students really enjoyed the opportunity to ask questions and interact in real time with an expert,” Lutz said. “We look forward to continuing to use technology to bring the world into our classrooms.”
Lutz said the students will use their newfound knowledge of Yellowstone’s ecosystem to make connections between producer, consumer and decomposer organisms. They’ll also apply their math skills and use scale to create life-sized grizzly drawings.
Another side effect of the lesson: more fifth-graders now want to visit Yellowstone!