My junior and senior years of high school I was lucky enough to go to the Teton Science School for a week with a group of my classmates. The Teton Science Camp is located in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming, just a few hours drive away from Yellowstone. Every year one of our teachers, Mr. Angelo (a former park ranger at Yellowstone), selected a group of students to spend a week in February at science camp. Both years I went I had an amazing experience and will remember it for a long time.
During our time at camp, we lived in cabins, one for the boys and one for the girls. Each morning we woke up and went to the main cabin, and each of us was assigned a chore for the day. Some of these chores included setting up for meals, taking the weather, or measuring the amount of snowfall. We then went to the hall for breakfast, and then prepared our lunches to take with us out into the field. One aspect of meals at the camp was called the "ort bucket". The rule was, never take more food than you can eat, and any leftover food on your plate went into the bucket. The goal was to have 0 ort at the end of the week. One of our teachers even encouraged me to eat the apple cores!
After breakfast, we then had a lesson of the day. Some memorable lessons to me were learning about animal tracks and scat, differences between black bears and grizzly bears, how to read a snow pack, and about seratonous pine cones. Then came time to get ready to go out in the field with our assigned groups.
The day everyone looked forward to, however, was Yellowstone Day. My first year I went to the camp, I was so excited because I had never ever been to Yellowstone and was really looking forward to the experience. We piled into vans and began our journey to Yellowstone. After a few hours drive, we got out at the entrance to the park, and then had to get into giant Snow Cats to take us to out final destination. Outside of the Snow Cat at one point was a giant bison just a few feet away from us! I was in awe of how massive they were, and terrified at the same time.
Both of my times at camp were so much fun and a great learning opportunity. I learned so much about sustainability and being a responsible traveler out in nature. The "ort bucket' was a great teaching tool, and we also were taught to never ever leave anything out in nature, no wrappers, no food, no nothing. Also, if we had to go to the bathroom while we were out in the field, we brought along biodegradable toilet paper. The best lesson I learned however, was to leave the place as close as you can to how it was when we got there. Another valuable lesson was to follow all posted signs. If one of us was caught doing anything against a posted sign, there was hell to pay with the instructors.
Teton Science Camp taught me a lot about how to act responsibly when on a vacation out in the wild. I take those lessons with me wherever I travel, and I have some fabulous memories to go along with them.