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Here’s how an ancient creature will improve climate science education in the Tri-Cities

Students visit the Coyote Canyon Mammoth Site, where the bones of a mammoth that lived about 17,500 years ago are being unearthed. (Pasco School District)
Students visit the Coyote Canyon Mammoth Site, where the bones of a mammoth that lived about 17,500 years ago are being unearthed. (Pasco School District)

A long-extinct creature that once roamed Eastern Washington will help enhance climate science education in the region.

It won’t help through magic or time travel, but as the subject of teacher training at the Coyote Canyon Mammoth Site this fall.

More than 40 elementary school teachers from around the region will participate in professional development at the site in October.

They’ll learn about the trunked mammals whose bones are being uncovered, and how to bring the site’s lessons into the classroom.

“I think it’s great,” said Gary Kleinknecht, the site’s education and outreach director. “Teachers need to know the resource is here.”

The training is being paid for with money from Educational Service District 123’s share in a grant aimed at helping teachers deepen their understanding of climate science. ESDs around the state are splitting $3 million, with the local ESD’s share at $293,000.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory also is partnering on training for middle and high school teachers through the grant.

The high school teacher training happened over the summer, with follow-ups planned. The teachers worked with climate scientists and virtual reality engineers who are developing climate simulations that can be used in the classroom.

The teachers will develop lessons around the technology, using them with students and providing feedback.

The middle school teacher training, planned next summer, will tackle the impact of climate on water resources. ESD 123 is specifically focusing on middle school teachers who work with student populations under-represented in STEM careers and higher education.

The professional development for teachers is enriching, said Georgia Boatman, ESD 123’s regional science coordinator.

“It helps them to think differently than the traditional ways we’ve taught science,” she said. “The power of this is to help teachers think about, what are those real, authentic things in the world we could have questions about and problems we could solve? And how can we get kids the experiences that will engage them and call them to solve those problems?”

The grant also will help ESD 123 evaluate how effectively it’s helping teachers and making a difference in student learning.

The Coyote Canyon site is south of Kennewick. Mammoth bones first were discovered there in 1999 during quarrying work.

The land eventually became dedicated to discovery, preservation and education.

School groups regularly come through, said Kleinknecht, who noted that bones continue to be uncovered.

It’s an exciting place to talk about climate, he said. About science, about history.

“It’s opening doors for kids,” he said. “It’s one of those experiences you remember.”


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