Today marks the anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt declaring the Grand Canyon a national monument. Many FFT Fellows share our 26th president’s commitment to environmental stewardship and use their grants to pursue learning related to the 1.7 billion year old formations, albeit each with a different focus.
Dory Manfre (Ashford, CT) designed a solo adventure of backpacking, backpacking and “canyoneering” in six different parks within the Grand Canyon. Researching biodiversity of flora and fauna, including areas affected by the Kolob Fire of 2006, added to her biome expertise and now enhances her teaching with fourth graders, which includes video conferencing with Park Rangers she met.
“To see that life can exist and thrive in such a harsh environment is a testament to the strength and complexities of flora and fauna,” said Dory. “And even when it may seem strong, often times it can be extremely fragile, when interdependent relationships become unbalanced. My students are learning more about these ecosystems to develop solutions to problems that exist in these environments.” Dory is incorporating Project Based Learning and Engineering Design Process (EDP) to make this happen.
Following my fellowship, I incorporated more National and State Park experiences with my students in the classroom. In our biodiversity unit, we study the ecological issues in the early 90s in Yellowstone National Park. We look at the different viewpoints of stakeholders and the solutions presented to address the problem through resources from the National Parks and PBS. Then, we study the effects of the wolves’ reintroduction and resulting the trophic cascade. From there, we have looked into issues currently facing other parks, including the Grand Canyon and the increasing haboobs. Additionally, we study local issues and get into the field. Last year we worked with a local university on a local ecological issue. We collected rock samples in the Nipmuck State Park and sent them for testing for the mineral pyrrhotite, which is a very important local issue.”
Julie McGowan (Albertville, AL) chose the Grand Canyon as her fellowship destination to show students the relationship between land and water. Her tour included a float down the Colorado River with a guide who incorporated her Navajo Indian heritage into the learning. Her experiences not only enhance new “Land and Water” unit that aligns with the Alabama Course of Study Science Standards, but also enriches teachers she trains as part of the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative.
Husband and wife team of Rob and Bekah Polemeni (Branford, CT) combined empathy with environmentalism in their fellowship to the Grand Canyon. The impact of climate change, specifically on indigenous peoples, now informs their high school students’ creation of a local service project based on water conservation.
“My students have the opportunity to make a difference on the local, national and global level because water scarcity is a global issue that is also happening in our backyard,” said Rob. “They are creating local educational campaigns while researching national and global water-related charities and microfinance opportunities. By posting their campaigns in local schools and businesses, they will see the impact of the learning on their community.”
“As we explored, I noticed the impact of humans on each park’s level of biodiversity and sustainability. We also interviewed many scientists and park rangers who passionately discussed the impact of climate change on the health of the Arizona ecosystem. These experiences led me to a greater understanding of the need for preservation and care for these national treasures. Over the course of this year, students within my General Environmental Science class identified their level of water usage and conducted a debate focused on the development of land and urbanization in an area facing issue linked to water scarcity. This experience has helped me add personal insights and antidotes to class discussion.”
Reagan Kiser and Ashton Booher (Sandy Springs, SC) opted to learn from the experts by enrolling in the Grand Canyon Association’s “Geology on the Edge” class. Under the direction of a Ph.D. in geology, the duo learned how the Grand Canyon was formed and how fossil records teach history while embarking on hikes along multiple trails and the east rim. Their third graders in a rural, Title I school now benefit from a new “Rocks, Minerals and Landform” unit aligned with the South Carolina Science Standards.
On this day in 1908, President Roosevelt declared of the Grand Canyon, “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.” Today, especially, we honor these teachers committed to carrying on his vision.