This week TSS launched the “Teton 5th Turns 50” campaign to celebrate the 50th year of helping Teton County 5th grade students explore Grand Teton National Park, their backyard. Whether students have already spent time in the park or if Teton 5th is their first experience, the multi-day residential program at the TSS Kelly Campus is transformative for all. Students stay two nights on campus, spend their days learning about local ecology and conducting field research with TSS field education faculty or graduate students, and share meals alongside their peers and classroom teachers.
According to Colby Mitchell, former Field Education Director, Teton Science Schools, “When you have a 50-year history of serving every 5th grader in the county, it becomes part of the identity of growing up in Jackson, of growing up in Teton County.”
As a part of the 50th anniversary, we have asked nearly 650 past Teton 5th participants of all ages to share some of their reflections on the program. What we continue to hear is how significant the experience is, and how much people hold onto both learnings and memories from their time in Kelly.
We’re grateful to Shannon Shuptrine for sharing her Teton 5th story with us. Shannon was born and raised in Jackson, left for a period, and now lives here again with her own family. Below are some of her memories.
I still remember my special spot from my Teton 5th experience in 1980. The students were bundled against the fall chill, yellow aspen leaves chattered, and the angle of the sun dispersed the light across the bed of Ditch Creek. With my journal and pencil, I found a downed log, weathered soft grey, that projected into the air and created a nook for sitting. I was not right next to the water of the creek, but I could hear it bubbling. My seat was grassy and slightly damp and braids of river rock spiraled around me. The spot felt protected, the sun warm despite the temperature and my task was to observe, draw, and write.
This exercise in reflection and observation was one of many I have had with TSS over many years. I attended the seventh-grade winter program in 1983 and have worked at Teton Science Schools for 17 years as an educator. During that time, TSS education practices continue to include the immersive experiences of “the more you look, the more you see”. What a valuable life lesson this is and continues to be, for me.
When we observe closely our natural surroundings, we begin to see how things connect. We are infused with questions and wonderings. We feel love and gratitude for complexity, pattern, and beauty. These notions help us to understand that we are part of something bigger. This leads to a desire to take care of our community because we feel connected to it. We become better at observing and discerning in all contexts, not just in a quiet nook by a meandering creek.
Our relationship to this planet is an essential part of the health of all of our relationships. Moments of reflection, observation, curiosity, and appreciation can be transformative. TSS continues to provide these a-ha moments, that can stick for a lifetime, to hundreds of students and participants each year. For that, I am grateful.
Thank you, Shannon, and to all those who make Teton 5th possible.
To help ensure Teton 5th impacts children for another 50 please consider making a gift today!