After many hours spent dreaming up ideas, writing and re-writing more than 20 pages of educational materials, and several practice runs, the program I have spent my summer on is ready to be used by school groups all around West Virginia.

The result of my labor is a three-part, science-based field trip. It includes an introductory pre-trip video, filmed and edited by yours truly, that introduces the mission of the National Parks Service and explains key terms as well as the importance of the topic to be covered on the trip. The second section is the field trip itself for which I wrote a detailed teacher packet, easy-to-read student worksheet booklet, and created diagrams in photoshop for each of the eight activity stops on the trip. The final section of my work includes three post-trip activities, each one specific to different age groups. For the younger students, I created an interactive, picture-based ecosystem cascade activity. For the older students, I made two versions of the instructions for a debate using a real, ongoing research project about conservation strategy in the park.

Altogether, the program I created deals with climate change, invasive species, human impacts on ecosystems, interconnectedness between species, species relationship types, and species endangerment and reintroduction. Each stop builds on the last leading to the final question, a question which still has no definite answer: Are humans an invasive species?

I am not usually one to brag about myself or my accomplishments, but I can say that I am proud of the work I have done this summer! We went from hiding animal-shaped beanie babies in the woods for a scavenger hunt to a fully immersive, and scientifically relevant self-led education program. I think that is a step forward.

Sandstone cliffs at Grandview Visitor’s Center

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