Educators from around the country who are passionate about bringing their classrooms to life spent a memorable week in Yellowstone National Park this past June at the 2017 Yellowstone STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) workshop. Under the guidance of Yellowstone Forever Institute and National Park Service (NPS) staff, the participants learned to use both traditional and innovative methods to incorporate Art into STEM lessons.
“Our goal is to inspire and reenergize teachers by offering transferable lessons that they can take back home with them,” says Yellowstone Forever program manager Jess Haas. “But truthfully, we aren’t the experts—they are—so this workshop also provides an opportunity for teachers to network with one another.”
The Yellowstone STEAM workshop came to fruition when a supporter approached Yellowstone Forever looking for a way to provide educational opportunities for teachers. “He really valued the kind of support we could offer to teachers who pass along their knowledge and love for the park year after year,” Haas explains.
From there, a partnership bloomed with the National Park Service to make the workshop as valuable as possible for participants—and for the students who would benefit from their newfound knowledge. “Every aspect of this workshop has taken place as a team with Yellowstone National Park,” says Haas. “We came together right from the beginning and brainstormed trends in education, and what might be most helpful for our participants. Now we teach it together.”
In addition to providing meaningful collaboration between Yellowstone Forever and the NPS, the workshop gives participants classroom inspiration with hands-on activities, plenty of time in the field, and creative projects to take home with them. This year educators participated in active discussions on Yellowstone National Park topics while field journaling, watercolor painting, and more.
A big hit this year, Jess explains, was a Japanese technique known as gyotaku, or “fish printing” (right). Participants created the prints while discussing the impacts of lake trout in Yellowstone Lake, and how the nonnative species have altered the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
“Field journaling is another project teachers can easily incorporate into their lessons at home,” says Haas. “We spend a lot of time getting teachers comfortable recording the observations they’re making around them.”
The Yellowstone Forever Institute offers a number of teacher workshops and initiatives, including the “Diversifying Our National Parks” workshop this fall. Similar to the STEAM workshop, the program uses Yellowstone as a spark for classroom inspiration—all while celebrating diversity and inclusion in America’s national parks. Yellowstone Forever is also proud to offer financial aid for educators wishing to take part in the Institute’s in-depth Field Seminars. Learn more and apply.
Yellowstone STEAM workshops are offered each year, but space fills quickly. Interested applicants should keep an eye out for applications this December for the summer of 2018.
Interested in supporting Yellowstone Forever’s youth and teacher initiatives? Learn more about how Yellowstone Forever is working to engage the next generation of park stewards and how you can get involved.