Community Impact Project: Local Forest Studies

Driving Question

How might we create for visitors to teacher them about plants, animals, and other topics that relate to our local natural area, specifically Palisades Creek Trailhead
Grades Involved


What PBE Principles were highlighted in this project?

Community as Classroom, Design Thinking, Inquiry-Based, Interdisciplinary, Learner-Centered, Local to Global

Project Description

The project began this spring. Students took place in many interdisciplinary learning activities at the Palisades Creek Trailhead. The developed a better understanding of observing and inquiry based off of observations. They grew familiar with living and non-living components of the local ecosystem. They developed mapping skills though hiking and creating a map of their journey.

Once students began to show greater interest in the area we discussed how we could help others in relation to our local area. The students decided that creating displays was one way they could do this and this formed our essential question. Once the students developed an essential question I planned how I would facilitate student learning. I integrated the ELA concepts we had to cover lessons involving habitat, landforms, plants, animals and recreation in our local and regional area. The students then participated in hands on experiences to better understand these topics on weekly trips to Palisades.

The writing they did after these experiences was used to decide final topics for their oral and written presentations. The students were assigned their topics and expectations for their final projects based on proficiency in writing, reading, and personal interests that were shown in previous tasks. The displays were then used to design displays which were donated to the trailhead where our project was completed. The USFS recently installed the displays with four of my students. Due to COVID-19 only 4 students that were related to the USFS workers helped with the installation.

 How did this positively impact community? How was it shared?

This project connected to our local community by incorporating outdoor learning in the land surrounding the school and a local national forest trailhead. The project also explored all ecosystem and geography related topics found in the K-2 standards with observations and lessons that directly related to our local community. We incorporated trips to Grand Targhee, GTNP, the Jackson Fish Hatchery, and Teton Raptor Center into the project, to connect to the regional community.


The biggest challenge was getting all the parents on board with the interdisciplinary approach to learning that was implemented. I had a couple parents say that we were only going on field trips, not learning. I think that some people don’t understand this is different from the field trips we grew up with. The trips are field experiences that help the students learn about topics in a way that is interesting. Getting families to understand this was a challenge.

Words of Wisdom

“As a teacher I would say, develop a project that interests you and and your students. My students showed me they really liked learning outside and many students often talked about local wildlife. They were always excited to share what animals they saw over the weekend. This lead from them helped me facilitate this project.” Becky Vordermann