Nature St. Vrain event to highlight SVVSD's environmental education

Originally published in the Longmont Times-Call >>

About 70 students are planning to present projects, including students from Longmont's Westview Middle School who are part of the Plains to the Park project led by science teacher Dan Cribby.

For the project, now in its sixth year, Cribby and the students are monitoring motion activated cameras in Rocky Mountain National Park and at Button Rock Preserve near Lyons, documenting wildlife and collecting data.

About once a month, Cribby takes students to the locations to change camera batteries, reposition cameras, clean lenses and collect memory cards.

The students also regularly present at Rocky Mountain National Park's research conference and have had a photography exhibit at the University of Colorado. Former participants, now in high school and college, serve as mentors.

"The kids are getting an extended learning opportunity," Cribby said. "They get to construct their own understanding of things through the experiences of going there. It helps them understand those places. Hopefully it makes them stewards."

At the Nature St. Vrain event, Westview will screen a 20-minute video showing highlights of the wildlife they've captured, including footage of elk, bears and mountain lions. Students also plan to attend to talk about their experiences.

Eighth-grader Nora Tayefeh said she loves being outdoors and liked connecting with other students who share her interests.

One of her favorite videos captured by the cameras was of two bear cubs with their mom. But, she added, it's not all great shots. The students have to move the cameras often as the seasons change to make sure they're in good spots and not getting "300 pictures of a plant waving in the wind."

"It's cool to help support Rocky Mountain National Park and Button Rock by giving them data to help keep their ecosystems healthy," she said.

Classmate Maggie Watson said she likes learning more about the state's wildlife, including seeing how they communicate through the videos.

"I get to see stuff I wouldn't usually get to see by hiking myself," she said. "It's such a cool opportunity."