Popular ‘Snowdesk’ program teaches students about Grand Teton science, ecology

Rangers from Grand Teton National Park participated in a 'Snowdesk' webcast to teach students about park ecology. (NPS photo - click to enlarge)

Grand Teton National Park rangers Kristen Dragoo, from left, Sarah Carter and Julie Stetson participate in a ‘Snowdesk’ webcast to teach students about park ecology. (NPS photo – click to enlarge)

From Staff Reports

For a third year, Grand Teton National Park interpretive rangers sat behind a news desk made of snow to bring the wonders of winter in northwestern Wyoming to students across America.

Rangers interacted with classrooms in California, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wyoming through video conference technology from a an outdoor location dubbed the “Snowdesk.”

Using curriculum-based distance learning, students were transported to the snowy Grand Teton National Park landscape outside the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, Wyoming.

Through this program, over 400 students were able to learn about and connect with Grand Teton National Park—a place that few of the students have actually visited. Some classrooms had a connection to Grand Teton because their teachers were past participants in the National Park Service’sTeacher-Ranger-Teacher Program—a summer initiative that brings classroom educators to national parks to work as interpretive park rangers.

Students from kindergarten to 5th grade interacted this winter with Grand Teton rangers, who broadcasted live from an actual desk carved in snow with the Teton Range as backdrop.

Rangers created their ‘Snowdesk’ set by leveling out an area for demonstrations and by shaping the desk out of snow, complete with a Park Service arrowhead. From this snowy set, Rangers Kristen Dragoo and Sarah Carter taught students about park wildlife and their winter adaptations, while Ranger Julie Stetson gave field demonstrations.

Students learned how the cold and wintry Teton environment affects the survival of plants, animals and people. Using Skype online video conferencing technology, rangers and students were able to interact with each other visually and verbally during each 30-minute broadcast. To reach students with different learning styles and enhance the experience, animal pelts, wildlife photographs, park maps and park newspapers had been previously loaned to each participating classroom.

Classrooms used their own technology to connect with the Snowdesk video conference program. Each classroom only needed a computer with access to the internet, a webcam, microphone, speakers and the free Skype software.

The popular Snowdesk program continues to grow, and Grand Teton National Park rangers hope to expand distance learning programs to other schools next winter, as well as promote efforts to work with other national parks.

Schools wishing to participate in Grand Teton National Park’s Snowdesk during the 2013-14 winter season should call 307-739-3349.

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