Mitchell Community College instructor Parks Collins and friend of the college Bill Day recently authored Unlimited Value: Stories and Lessons from Yellowstone. The book shares stories from Project Yellowstone, an annual Mitchell supported summer enrichment program which facilitates educational exploration of Yellowstone National Park by students as well as other community members. Unlimited Value: Stories and Lessons from Yellowstone is available for purchase on Amazon.
Parks Collins, leader of the program since its beginning, believes that sharing the stories from Project Yellowstone will spark a greater appreciation and increased conservation efforts, not only at national parks but even locally. “Wild places have many wonderful stories to tell,” said Collins. “We must be willing to listen.” The 2018 trip will be held in June. Both Collins and co-author Bill Day (leader with Project Yellowstone since 2011) are looking forward to another transformative learning experience. "The Yellowstone trip through Mitchell Community College has been life-changing for several participants including myself,” Day noted. “Co-authoring this book with Parks has allowed us to share just a taste of what the trip is about.”
Project Yellowstone aims to make science relevant; allow students the chance to be scientists; and stimulate conservation through appreciation. Project Yellowstone accomplishes this by exposing students to the wildlife biology, geology, botany, microbiology and ecology of Yellowstone National Park. Participants have completed independent inquiry-based projects, observed large megafauna such as bears, wolves, and moose, and have hiked many trails. Participants have also had opportunities to explore the plant life, the physical formations of the land, and the geothermal areas. Instructors and participants have been responsible for leading specific topic discussions, including the geology of Yellowstone, the reintroduction of the gray wolf and bald eagle, the ecology of cutthroat trout, and the delicate balance of life in high altitude ecosystems and lake ecosystems.
Project Yellowstone was created in 2008 at Statesville High School (SHS) in Statesville, NC. The objective was to create a summer enrichment program where students could learn biological concepts using Yellowstone National Park as the classroom. During the summers of 2009 and 2010, 18 SHS students received full scholarships to travel to Yellowstone. These scholarships were the result of generous donations from the community as well as several grants.
Project Yellowstone expanded in 2011 to include students from Mitchell Community College and adults from the Statesville, NC area in addition to SHS students. The idea was to allow inter-generational learning to take place as college students and other adults served as mentors to the high school students. The ages of the participants during the 2011 trip ranged from 15 to 69. Full scholarships were awarded to 12 more students during both the 2011 and 2012 trips.
In 2014, Project Yellowstone expanded again as it was offered as a continuing education class through Mitchell. Any individual from the area will have the chance to sign up to participate in this program. Scholarships for select high school and college students will still be granted as they are available. More information about Project Yellowstone can be obtained on Mitchell’s Continuing Education–Special Interest courses page or the Project Yellowstone blog.