From Staff Reports
MOOSE, WYO. — Interpretative rangers in Grand Teton National Park have just completed an innovative distance learning program called Snowdesk. During each program, rangers connected with students from across the county during live webcasts from outside the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center.
Through nine different Snowdesk broadcasts from Feb. 14 to March 15, a total of nearly 650 students from Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California and Wyoming were able to chat via live video with rangers using Skype conferencing technology.
This was the second year of Snowdesk interactive broadcasts. During each 30-minute broadcast, students in grades 3-6 learned about how park wildlife survive the harsh winter in Grand Teton National Park and the Jackson Hole valley.
With the Teton mountain range as the backdrop, rangers created a set by leveling out a staging area for demonstrations and by carving a desk out of snow. Two rangers hosted the broadcast from the “snowdesk” while another ranger demonstrated winter wildlife survival skills. To enhance the learning experience and engage different learning styles, participating classrooms were loaned animal pelts, animal photographs, park maps and park newspapers prior to the broadcasts.
Classrooms use their own technology to connect with the Snowdesk program. Grand Teton National Park hopes to expand Snowdesk to additional schools and connect with more students next winter.
Yellowstone Park rangers are preparing for an upcoming series of similar videochats, and have received nearly 20 requests from classrooms so far, according to education ranger Beth Taylor. Students will learn about topics including Yellowstone wildlife, history and geology. Classrooms need a Skype account, a computer with a webcam and a high-speed Internet connection to participate, and teachers may request education materials in advance for use in connection with the chats.