BIGHORN MOUNTAINS — The Spear-O-Wigwam Mountain Campus was recently the host for a weeklong field-based environmental science class titled “Examining Global Problems Through a Local Lens.”
The class, in its second year, was held July 21-26. One Campbell County, five Johnson County, and eight Sheridan County students from six district high schools attended the course.
“In science education, there exist three distinct domains: the learner, the teacher and the search for meaning. I can truthfully say that this class brought together these three factors in a way that created a uniquely powerful learning experience for the students and the instructors,” class instructor and Tongue River High School life science instructor Dave Munsick said. “It also brought together students from across northeastern Wyoming and opened their eyes to the opportunities our own Bighorn Mountains have to offer.”
The class is designed to engage students in the scientific inquiry of environmental problems, while gaining experience in field techniques. The students stayed three days at Spear-O-Wigwam, and spent the other three days backpacking and conducting research in the Cloud Peak Wilderness. Students learned how to design and implement field studies, generate and analyze data and gained an appreciation for the ways in which environmental variables are interrelated on local and global levels.
The course introduced students to the environmental interactions between Bighorn Mountain geology, hydrology, vegetation and wildlife. Additionally, the Northern Wyoming Community College District partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to conduct campsite monitoring research and data collection in the Cloud Peak Wilderness, thereby studying the potential impacts human visitors can have on wilderness areas. The curriculum encouraged the development of critical thinking skills concerning solutions to environmental issues. It also increased global awareness of issues important to biological diversity and the functioning of ecosystems.
“This has been a great way to experience the outdoors and gain firsthand knowledge about the numerous roles of the United States Forest Service,” Tongue River High School graduate Eilish Hanson said. “Without this opportunity through Spear-O-Wigwam, we would have never otherwise been able to have an environmental science experience of this nature and caliber.”
Funding for student tuition and fees was provided by Campbell County BOCHES, Johnson County BOCHES, and The Paul L. & Thelma L. Mason Scholarship Fund via the Sheridan College Foundation.