Of Dinosaurs and Raptors: TSS AmeriCorps Service in Jackson

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to share this blog during AmeriCorps Week, which recognizes the commitment of Americorps members and highlights the impact they have across the country. Thanks to AmeriCorps members Kate Roberts and Amelia Nolan for their written contributions!

Through the Teton Science School AmeriCorps Program, members have the option of serving either with TSS Field Education or with another partner organization in the greater Jackson community. This winter, members are serving with three organizations in addition to TSS: Teton County Parks and Recreation, the Teton Raptor Center, and the Teton Literacy Center. Through this model, members are able to build community partnerships and help local organizations increase the science literacy of their participants.

AmeriCorps member Kate Roberts has been serving at the Teton Literacy Center since early January and shared the following update on her experience over the past few months:

Each week, a group of little paleontologists assembles in the cafeteria of Jackson Elementary School. “RAAAAAAR I’m a carnivore!” is a greeting that’s common to hear from down the hall as the clock strikes 3:05pm and students start to file out of their classrooms.

As the AmeriCorps member with Teton Literacy Center, it’s a highlight of my week to spend a few hours exploring the Cretaceous, Triassic, and Jurassic periods with some lively and inquisitive kindergartners. The Literacy Center offers several free after school clubs that give Teton County School District students an extra literacy boost in an environment that’s more interest based and group oriented than traditional tutoring. Each week in Dinosaur club, our aim is to have as much fun integrating science and literacy skills as we possibly can.

During a recent fossil dig, we started with a quick story about how a dinosaur becomes a fossil and learned that the skeletons some of us have seen in museums aren’t real bones at all – they’re fossils turned to stone after millions of years. Some have even been found right here in Wyoming! So, primed for discovery, we set about digging up fossils of our very own (in a pit of macaroni, however, instead of the Wyoming badlands). Students were careful to use fine brushes, since they know that fossils are fragile. Once our designated “mappers” had mapped the discoveries, the “movers” carefully separated fossil from macaroni and used their problem-solving skills to reconstruct the skeleton.

All in a day’s work for a budding paleontologist.

AmeriCorps member Amelia Nolan is completing her service at the Teton Raptor Center. Thus far she has been engaged in numerous outreach programs, and has extended her reach to collaborate with Kate at the Teton Literacy Center and bring the dinosaurs to life!

Here are some updates from Amelia at the Raptor Center:

Through my collaboration with Kate at the Teton Literacy Center, we are hoping to bring “Dino Club” to life with some of the Raptor Center’s living dinosaurs (the raptors), preserved raptor specimens that students can touch, and fun activities. The goal is for students to understand and appreciate who raptors evolved from.

Otherwise, I have been primarily focused on developing activities and curricula that engage all grade levels in exploration and learning about raptors. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to serve with dedicated and amazing people every day. So far in 2016, our accomplishments include recruiting 67 volunteers, who have already volunteered 968 hours, and releasing two great horned owls and a northern saw-whet owl through the efforts of the raptor rehabilitation clinic. In addition, as of February 23, 2016 the Raptor Center has reached 2,799 individuals through on and off-site educational programs. Thanks to avian educator Becky Collier for making this experience so rewarding.

Thank you, Kate and Amelia, for your dedication to furthering science literacy in the greater Jackson community and beyond! We are so grateful for your service.

To learn more about opportunities through the TSS AmeriCorps Program, click here or email americorps@tetonscience.org.

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