Today, the students from St. Edward's School look back on their time in Yellowstone National Park, thinking about what made them join EPI's Yellowstone Winter Ecology course in the first place and what new insights they'll take back with them to Florida. Over the last 8 days, this group of 10 teens helped park researchers collect DNA and data on cougars and moose, contributing to vital science research that informs conservation and policies in the park and surrounding areas. In their own words, they tell you what it's meant. And be sure to check out the rest of their course: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, and Day 7.
"Living Amongst All of the World"
KENDRA: What really drew me towards this course was the fact that you would get the chance to work outside in Yellowstone studying really interesting animals. Though I’m not exactly a science kind of person, this course was very engaging and everything I’d hoped it would be….I think the most important thing I am taking away from this trip is a greater appreciation and concern for the world’s wildlife and ecosystems.
VICTORIA: I think I learned the most about myself here and how to improve things about myself that I never was able to see before. I have always had a love of traveling, but this trip inspired me to go off the paved road sometimes and experience the beauty of the back country. I think that avoiding the typical tourist attractions has enhanced this trip more than I ever predicted.
MICHAEL: What I am taking away from this trip is exactly what I wanted: knowledge. What is even better is that I didn’t just learn about Yellowstone and its wildlife by looking it up, I lived it. I learned about tracking animals, identifying different types of rock, and so much more by experiencing and applying knowledge firsthand. Coming all this way to experience the park in person was absolutely necessary, as it is now something I know I won’t forget.
TEA: Usually my school offers trips where you tour a city, but this program assures you that you are actually making a difference in this world, to your community, to the future! Not only am I taking away much more knowledge in ecology, Yellowstone National Park, and wildlife, but I am able to bring back a new way of thinking. I feel as if my mind is much more open and aware, and I feel very present. Coming back to Florida I feel like I will be much more aware of the natural world, as I have gained a whole new respect and appreciation for people and nature.
RACHEL: Although I have taken a number of science classes that I have enjoyed, I absolutely detest the amount of time in front of a computer screen that lab science requires, thus the low-tech characteristic of EPI interested me. I have learned about a whole other facet of scientific research that is conducted outdoors, where I love to be. I have always sworn up and down that I would never pursue a career in science only to be chained to a computer for the rest of my life. I feel completely differently now. This experience has really made me think seriously about going into wildlife biology or ecology.
CLARA: The greatest influence on this trip for me was definitely Katie, Sally, and Calvin, the instructors. Those three made this experience hilarious and unlike anything I could possibly experience again. They taught me TONS in these few days, whether it be ecology related, life lessons, or random tidbits, jokes, and stories. Second to that was how my surrounding classmates cultivated a supportive space yet completely thought out of the box, constantly improving and progressing. I truly feel more present, conscious, and curious, whilst also feeling stronger and better connected with humans and wildlife…as though I’m truly living amongst all of the world.
TYLER: Something I forgot about in the fast pace of life back at home was the basic essence of humanity. That is, humans are animals. By coming out into the wild, I am reminded that the harsh and trying conditions that I observed are inhabited by exceptionally adept creatures. These animals are not simple, brainless, thoughtless creatures, but rather calculating and social members of an ecosystem. Human error has caused the decimation of many species which are just now recovering, and it is important to remember both the history of the issue and the high stakes of what we could lose.
ANNI: First of all, I hopefully won’t forget anything in my room, but that wouldn’t be so bad, because I learned a lot about Yellowstone and its wildlife, like cougars and moose, and how scientists work in the park to learn even more about them. I also learned a lot about Yellowstone’s problems, but also how every single person can do something against them. Overall, it was great experience, and we had a great time. I found new friends and the time just flew by.
TRISHA: Unlike any of the other trips with my school, this course offered a learning experience in a place that wasn’t in a city or a hotel. It allowed you to make a difference directly as you were able to obtain data for field biologists’ long term research projects. It also offered activities that can only be done in the mountains such as snowshoeing and tracing tracks in the snow. I was able to learn about field jobs that were always vague to me. It also introduced me to the ongoing conflicts in national parks, such as Yellowstone, due to the numerous outer stakeholders that have a say and position in the choices that are made in the park.
DEVON: I don’t consider myself a particularly sciencey person. Though I always wished I could be the strange, quirky science whiz who conducts experiments in her spare time, I’ve found myself drawn to the surreal and imaginary for as long as I can remember….I came on this trip to be with my friends, to adventure, to hone my incessant curiosity. I found all of those things here, nestled between towering mountains I momentarily felt trapped by. And over a span of only 8 days, after infinite cycles of layering and de-layering on long snowy hikes, after 8 days of Tupperware lunches, after hours of cumulative car rides packed with conversations with once-strangers passionate about a plethora of different things, I have seen a different side of the scientific process – a side I haven’t found through monotonous chem labs. The cold hard facts of science go hand in hand with creativity, imagination, the ability to look at things not only straight-on but sideways and backwards and upside down. With practice I can learn to weave my talents into something helpful and impactful. And all it took for me to reach that realization was exposure to something outside of my comfort zone.
DR. MONAHAN: Growing up outside exploring the forest and mountains of the Northeast taught me that being in nature is restorative and inspiring. We lead such busy lives that we are often overscheduled and stressed. I wanted my students to take a “time-out” and explore the natural world in an experiential way while building and developing conceptual scientific knowledge. We are taking away so much from this course, but here are the big five.
- We must be stewards for our environment.
- We have more grit than we might realize.
- We are open to new ideas and ways of thinking.
- We can learn and have fun at the same time.
- We are able to move out of our comfort zones and experience nature in a real and authentic way.
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