Winter Adaptations and Natural Selection: A Winter Perfect Beeya-nahmp

What was your driving question?

In what ways does the environment affect the traits of an organism?

Grades Involved

How did this project connect to your local or regional community?
Fort Washakie School is located in the Wind River Reservation and the story Beeya-nahpm has been passed down through generations of the Shoshone creating a strong cultural connection to this project. The stories include a large, mysterious creature on the landscape and are told to express a variety of messages including explaining missing livestock or food and getting kids to behave. Along with these stories, a member of the school community had large footprint impressions from her yard that have not been identified by anyone including wildlife biologists, so students also had a physical connection.

What PBE principles were highlighted in this project?

Project Description

Students responded to daily journal prompts. The first prompt had students draw maps of their study areas, which had to be somewhere outside and near their houses. From there, students observed and learned about their places including the plants, animal tracks, and the interaction of biotic and abiotic elements. The Bigfoot project was introduced through a journal prompt with photos and a plaster cast of a creature’s tracks from a teacher’s yard. Students speculated what the tracks could be from and many wondered if they belonged to Bigfoot. If they did, students asked about what Bigfoot would eat, which prompted the next journal question about observed energy sources. The project used journaling as a tool for students to examine and experience their places and use science skills without typical classroom supplies. Any organism that lives here has to live off the same environment the students are observing, so how would Bigfoot live here? Students connected the project to science topics like genetics, inheritance, and SCREW (snow, cold, radiation, energy, and wind) factors of winter and even collect data to support their hypotheses. This project used inquiry-based principles because journal prompts often were expansions of student observations from previous entries. The project also used learner-centered principles as the questions were personally relevant to their places (backyards) and used interdisciplinary tools as students journaled, drew, collected data, and hypothesized about Bigfoot.

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

Unfortunately, due to COVID students were unable to share their projects with the community.

Reflection: What was the biggest challenge? What was the most rewarding aspect of this project?

One of the biggest challenges was remotely facilitating the project due to COVID. Some students did not have access to a consistent internet connection and could not participate in zoom classes to share observations and journal entries. It was also difficult to ensure that students went outside to their places every day to respond to journal prompts. This project was really successful in pulling students into their places and having them spend time outside every day in their place. One successful journal prompt focused around sketching Bigfoot and labeling specific internal and external adaptations it would need and how the adaptations would address the stressors of the environment. Students were really creative in their drawings and thoughtful of how Bigfoot relates to its environment. After discussing everyone’s adaptations, students reassessed what Bigfoot would need and updated their drawings to best represent Bigfoot.

Any advice for a teacher or student that is implementing a PBE project for the first time?

“The backyard is right there and it is rich. If you get too tied into a district curriculum and it seems like the curriculum doesn’t allow you to look into your backyard, there is something wrong. Everything that we study in science is back there and possible to use.” – Mark Roy