“Have you ever seen a doe and a fawn swim across a lake together? Have you ever been so close to a herd of nearly 36 big-horned sheep that you could reach out and touch one? Have you ever seen Sandhill cranes doing a mating dance?”

The middle school students enrolled in the Ultimate Yellowstone Adventure witnessed all of these events and shared many other remarkable experiences over the past ten days. This program was designed based on the input from past middle school students at Teton Science Schools on what they enjoyed the most during summer programs. This summer students enjoyed hiking, canoeing and camping in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks and learned to work together as a team to accomplish their goals. With the support of one another, they were able to summit Mt. Washburn (10,243 ft.), and as one student pointed out, “That was the highest thing I’ve ever hiked!” They learned about the ecology and geology of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem through hands on inquiry and observation of natural processes and landscape patterns. They hiked Blacktail Butte, canoed String and Jackson Lakes, explored geothermal features, wildlife, and plant communities in Yellowstone. Students learned how to set up a camp and cook their own meals as a team during a 5 day/4 night camping trip in Yellowstone National Park.

They explored the Norris Geyser Basin and conducted an inquiry project on the characteristics of geothermal features in Porcelain Basin. On their last day in Yellowstone they explored the Lamar Valley, hiked to Trout Lake, and observed a grizzly bear and a black bear. This group enjoyed outstanding wildlife observations including all of the large ungulates in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

They gained an understanding and appreciation of the dynamic processes that have shaped the beautiful landscapes of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and created Google Earth tours to share highlights of their experiences with their families. This experience transformed many of these students and gave them the knowledge and skills necessary to continue exploring natural areas with family and friends in the future.