Teaching and Learning, Planting and Blooming

“Bloom where you’re planted” is a phrase that the landscape here has taken to heart. We are in the middle of wildflower season in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and the hills and valleys are blanketed with a vibrant display of buds and blossoms; yellow, white, purple, red, and blue dominate the landscape as much as the abundance of green. The occasional stubborn patches of snow grow smaller by the day.

These days, the campuses of Teton Science Schools are not unlike the flowering hills that surround us. Our campus has been full of instructors and AmeriCorps members, faculty and staff, all coming from different places and converging here. Perhaps even more dynamic are the groups of students and participants who cycle through each week, bringing with them fresh colors and ideas, and leaving behind stories and memories, buds that add themselves to the landscape and make TSS stronger.

This summer we have hosted participants from the Texas Children’s Hospital, the American School for the Deaf, and the National Military Family Association, to name just a few of our diverse programs. We have taught children as young as five years old in our day programs, as well as Road Scholars in their eighties.

The abundance of participants from all walks of life and from all over the country contributes to the vibrancy that is palpable in the air. Each person who finds their way to Teton Science Schools during the summer season plants a seed here, and hopefully leaves with new personal growth. Just like the lupine, geranium, and Indian paintbrush in the valley or the phlox and alpine forget-me-not up on the peaks, we are all part of a system of beautiful, organized chaos.

We have hiked up the terminal moraines that glaciers left behind thousands of years ago, and dipped our feet into the frigid lakes at the top. We have walked through new forests that are patiently growing after fires swallowed them just a few decades – or years – back. We have floated down the Snake River and taken the tram from Teton Village up to Rendezvous Mountain. We have observed, hypothesized, experimented, discussed and questioned. We have shared our expertise and made connections between this place and those other places, the many different ones from which we all came, students and instructors alike. Meanwhile, the wildflowers have stood by, turning their heads—like us—toward the sun and the breeze and the mountains.

The connections we make here are often brief, but their effects are long lasting. Those of us who have come to work at Teton Science Schools just for the summer are very aware of the changes that lie just around the corner. We mark the time we have left in this place by watching the wildflowers. What is in bloom today? What will pop up or disappear by tomorrow? We wonder, when the dust of this whirlwind summer settles, what we will take with us? Where can we be of service next?

At the end of the summer, some of us will go back to school, others will begin or continue careers, or search for the next adventure. We have all bloomed in one way or another since we arrived at Teton Science Schools. We will take our flowers—the lessons we’ve learned and memories we’ve made here—with us. We will go off and plant new things. So maybe “bloom where you’re planted” is not quite what we are up to here. Maybe it is better to bloom where you’re needed, or invited, or where you can be of service. What is most important of all, maybe, is just to bloom, wherever you are.

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