Project Yellowstone, an annual student and community program offered through Mitchell Community College, celebrated the program’s 9th trip in June 2018. Since summer 2009, the Project Yellowstone program has taken high school and college students as well as others from the Statesville, NC community to Yellowstone National Park.
This year, due to many generous donations, full Project Yellowstone scholarships were offered to three curriculum students, Amari Grady, Mitchell Jordan and Jeremy Wagner. All three students called the trip an experience of a lifetime. “This was by far one of the coolest experiences I have ever had in my life… I saw mammals I have only studied in textbooks, mountains I have only seen on postcards, and one geyser that seems to be a magnet on everyone’s refrigerator,” Mitchell Jordan shared. Amari Grady, echoing the wonder of the experience, added, “This trip made me more open to say “Yes!”, and not be afraid to ask questions about something I don’t know.”
The experiential learning that occurs when students are in non-traditional educational environments can make a huge impact. “Programs such as Project Yellowstone are indispensable to students because it gets them outside the classroom and engaged in the environment,” Jeremy Wagner summed up. “Exposure is the best teacher.” Parks Collins, Mitchell instructor and trip co-leader, noted how impactful the trip can be. “To me, the coolest thing about this trip is having the opportunity to watch our students build relationships with men and women from our community, some of whom have provided the funds for these students to participate.”
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. To contribute to the Project Yellowstone scholarship fund, visit the Foundation and Endowment for Excellence’s online giving page.
Pictured above, left-right: Bill Day (co-leader), Blake Jordan, Jeremy Wagner, Amari Grady and Parks Collins (co-leader)