Graduate Program

Teach. Learn. Lead.


Good graduate education requires commitment on the part of the learner. Our courses are block scheduled, rigorous, experiential in character, and very student centered. Students receive considerable one on one attention from faculty, and work closely on projects with faculty and fellow graduate students. Our faculty is committed to student success, and has high expectations for graduate student performance. There will be many opportunities to interact with renowned scientists, educators, writers, and other professionals throughout the year.

Academic Courses

The academic component of the Graduate Program provides instruction and knowledge development in ecological field science, educational theory, and educational leadership. The courses are generally block scheduled for two to four weeks and interweave lectures, fieldwork, classroom presentations and independent projects. All courses are graduate level semester credits.

Fall Semester

Emphases: Introduction to Place-based Education, Teaching Practices and Field Science

Introduction to Field Science Teaching - 3 credits

This course is also designed to introduce students to place-based education and basic instructional concepts for teaching natural science in the outdoors. Students will learn field science content, principles of connecting to place, teaching techniques, and learning theories related to place-based education and field science teaching. Field activities, readings, and modeling of teaching techniques will be included in the course. Graduate students will teach lessons to elementary students in the field and classroom. The course will engage graduate students in learning environmental science principles and applying these principles in field teaching settings.

Community Ecology of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem - 3 credits

This field-based course is focused on community ecology from qualitative and quantitative perspectives. Selected topics include: diversity patterns, niche theory, succession and disturbance, fire ecology, climate change, herbivory impacts, and predator-prey dynamics – emphasizing local communities. The course will also familiarize students with basic field data collection, statistical analysis, and research techniques through student-generated field research projects.

Principles of Place-Based Education - 3 credits

Place-based education exposes students to the historical, political, and eco-social underpinnings of place-based education while supporting students in developing thoughtful place-based pedagogies and a personal connection to place. These principles are interwoven in academic course work and practicum throughout the year.

Fall Teaching Practicum - 2 credits

The Fall Teaching Practicum is an introductory experience to teaching in Teton Science Schools Education Program. Graduate Students become instructors in the Education Program under the tutelage and mentorship of Graduate Program Faculty. Fall Practicum includes 4 weeks (approximately 120 hours) of teaching in outdoor field education or in regional public schools within our outreach program, and focuses on improving student management skills and instruction techniques. Teaching teams consist of 5-8 graduate students and 1-2 faculty.

Spring Semester

Emphases: Best practices in place-based instruction, winter ecology, and social-ecological systems

Winter Ecology of the Yellowstone Ecosystem - 2 Credits

Winter Ecology emphasizes the effects of winter on organisms and subsequent organismal adaptations. Energy flux, snowpack physics, organismal adaptations, avalanche awareness, and the influence of winter on wildlife management are emphasized through lectures and field laboratories. Students will develop their own independent (field or lab) research project on a winter ecology topic and present their results. Students also have the option of earning an American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education Level I certificate.

Advanced Instructional Strategies – 3 credits

This course will challenge each student to delve into the nature of “idea making” to uncover how humans construct meaning from the world and the educator’s role in that process. You will be asked to explore your own beliefs about education and then integrate new strategies into your teaching.

Spring Teaching Practicum - 4 credits

The Spring Teaching Practicum is an immersion experience in Teton Science Schools Education Program that builds teaching methods and expands professional skills begun in the Fall Practicum. This practicum applies coursework content understanding and develops leadership. The teaching practicum will nurture an evolving set of skills and instructional identity. Graduate students become instructors in the Education Program under the tutelage and mentorship of faculty. Spring Practicum includes 9 weeks (approximately 270 hours) of teaching in outdoor field education; regional public schools within our outreach program; and/or in the classroom at Teton Science Schools’ Journey’s School. Teaching teams consist of 5-8 graduate students and 1-2 faculty.

Ecological Inquiry – 3 credits

This course uses ecological concepts to study the impacts of natural resource management policies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). An extensive team-based project explores the multiple perspectives of these issues. This course will address basic ecological concepts and natural resource management issues in the GYE. Emphasis will be placed on developing critical thinking skills and exploring the effects of resource management policy and actions. Activities will be student driven and involve interviewing people involved in GYE issues and presenting those issues to the class.

Summer Session

Emphasis: Final capstone synthesis of yearlong learning

Advanced Elements of Field Ecology Course Design - 5 credits

This course is an integrated education and ecology course that addresses topics in field ecology including natural history, identification, taxonomy, physiology, and educational strategies for teaching these topics. The primary elements of study include ornithology, botany, and entomology. Students will design field ecology courses that include field research, outdoor leadership, and natural history components.

Capstone Teaching Practicum – 4 credits 

The Capstone Teaching Practicum is the culminating experience of the Graduate Program. Students will synthesize field teaching, ecology, & leadership skills developed through the academic year. They will: teach greater content depth using a wider array of education strategies; mentor students over multi-week programs; lead multi-week programs with greater independence from faculty; effectively use wilderness experiences as an educational tool; and lead longer term research & science inquiry projects.

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