For three local educators, visiting Yellowstone National Park was a life changing experience.
During a Monday meeting for the Sampson County Board of Education, Megan Fussell of Clement Elementary; Leasa Hodges of Midway Middle; and Tanya Freeman of Union Intermediate made a presentation about their summer trip to Yellowstone National Park.
The visit was part of North Carolina’s Natural Science Museum Educators of Excellence Institute. The purpose is provide educators with staff development opportunities to transform the way they view and teach natural science.
During her stay, Fussell said Yellowstone awoke all of her senses.
“Obviously, there was no end to the beauty and grandeur that I saw,” Fussell said.
She continued and discussed using her senses to hear the snort of bighorn sheep, smell the sage, touch the stones at the bottom of Yellowstone River and taste bison.
“Yellowstone made me stop and enjoy every moment,” she said. “This was a once in a lifetime experience. I was able to push myself physically, emotionally, professionally and spiritually.
“I did things that I have never done and not only came out a better educator, but a better person,” she said.
Fussell said a passion she developed for Yellowstone will transfer over to lessons and activities in her classroom.
“The goal now is to bring Yellowstone to my students,” she said.
Ways to do that is through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and a discovery box, which contains natural and replica items from the park.
“Students, especially at a young age, need to be able to feel and touch something and have a deeper understanding,” she said.
While addressing the board, Freeman said she was thankful for the opportunity and being 8,000 feet above the ground at one time and seeing Old Faithful, a cone geyser located in the park.
“There are things that I will never forget,” she said about collaborating with teachers and seeing new things.
“It was just an excellent and amazing opportunity,” she said. “It went from just being a professional development to a level that I just can’t really explain.”
Hodges added that is was a fantastic experience as well.
“Until you go, you don’t get it,” Hodges said. “There’s so much beauty out there.”
The self-proclaimed “outdoors” woman thought she had seen it all, until she went to Yellowstone.
“There were a lot of new things there,” Hodges said, before talking about seeing grizzly bears, American bison, moose and how park officials manage the wildlife.
After returning, Hodges discussed how she’s now implementing things she learned from the trip into her classrooms and other outdoor activities. She ended by stating how the atmosphere of Yellowstone calls people back after they leave.
“Yellowstone is that kind of place,” Hodges said.
Funding for the trip was provided by Simple Gifts, which gives teachers the opportunity to have such experiences. Coordinator Margaret Turlington mentioned how the grant and the trip made a difference in the lives of the educators and encouraged others to apply.
“I’m so proud of these three teachers for trying something different and changing their lives,” Turlington said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.