$52,000 contract will facilitate Casper Mountain Science Program

(Courtesy of the Casper Mountain Science Program via Facebook)

CASPER, Wyo. — A contract between the Natrona County School District and the Girl Scouts of Wyoming and Montana will help facilitate the Casper Mountain Science Program.

The NCSD Board of Trustees approved the contract during their Monday, Aug. 12 meeting. It is not to exceed $52,000.

“The Casper Mountain Science Program (CMSP) is a learning community available in grades K-12,” the school district says. “Outdoor science education is the focus while teaching about the natural world and the Casper Mountain Ecosystem.”

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The program utilizes Camp Sacajawea facilities and properties on Casper Mountain. Those are owned by the Girl Scouts.

NCSD students take field trips up the mountain throughout the school year. The science program “uses a multidisciplinary learning approach with a focus on science that provides opportunities for students and teachers to experience outdoor education throughout the school year.”

The program’s curriculum is based off of state standards and is aligned with “new proposed science standards, with a focus on inquiry learning.”

Some overnight field trips are offered.

“The lodge is used for instructional learning space, lodging support, restrooms, and meal preparation and dining services,” the school district explained. “Overnight learning experiences incorporate gender specific community sleeping arrangements in yurts with qualified chaperones.”

The program served about 3,400 NCSD students in the 2018-2019 school year.

The school district’s explained some of the teaching principles that the Casper Mountain Science Program relies upon:

PLACE BASED LEARNING: Place-based education usually includes conventional outdoor education methodologies as advocated by John Dewey.

It usually includes conventional outdoor education methodologies to help students connect with their particular corners of the world. Proponents of place-based education often envision a role for it in achieving local ecological and cultural sustainability.

The main purpose of “outdoor place based education” is to provide meaningful contextual experiences–in both natural and constructed environments–that complement and expand classroom instruction,
which tends to be dominated by print and electronic media (Knapp, 1996).

It can be described as instruction directed toward developing a citizenry prepared to live well in a place without destroying it (Orr, 1994).

It emerges from the particular attributes of a place. The content is specific to the geography, ecology, and other dynamics of that place. It is inherently multidisciplinary and is experiential. In many programs this includes an inquiry-learning component.

INQUIRY BASED LEARNING: Is a learning process or strategy rather than any specific set of lessons.

This process aims to enhance learning based on (1) increased student involvement, (2) multiple ways of knowing and (3) sequential phases of
cognition. By using student derived investigations knowledge is more relevant and meaningful.

This investment in the curriculum and learning process leads to active construction of meaningful knowledge, rather than passive acquisition of facts transmitted from a lecturer.

Next, by engaging students’ multiple intelligences more types of students are successful contributors and students are engaged on more than one level.

In addition, this process mirrors the stages of Blooms learning phases, which leads to more complete cognition by building on previously learned knowledge.

Lastly, the student to-student collaboration reinforces assimilation of knowledge, while the teacher to student collaboration builds trust for
future discovery. Also known as project based curriculum, it typically adheres to the following guidelines:


• Start with an open-ended question or demonstration (as opposed to beginning a lesson with definitions and
explanations).
• Gather responses and subsequent questions from students with little comment or direction.
• Require students to collaborate on designing experiments or methods of inquiry.
• Student teams conduct experiments or gather data.
• If time allows, re-evaluate question based on new data and re-experiment or collect new data based on revised
question.
• Students present findings as an oral presentation, a poster presentation or an evaluative write-up.

Inquiry based curriculum has been shown to develop independent and critical thinking skills, positive attitudes and curiosity toward science and increased achievement in biological content (Hall & McCudy, 1990), (Kyle et al, 1988), (Kyle et al, 1982),
and (Shymansky, 1984).

Leonard (1983) showed that students who completed a semester long introductory biology laboratory designed on inquiry based approaches achieved 6% higher grades on biology content exams as opposed to the control group which completed a more traditional information-transmission modeled laboratory

Natrona County School District