Initial Publication Date: December 12, 2013

GTIP 2009 Interns

Tim Baker, Hart County High School, Munfordville, KY
Shane Coffey, Metcalfe County Middle School, Edmonton, KY
Broderick Davis, Caverna Elementary School, Cave City, KY
Rachael Jones, Greenwood High School, Bowling Green, KY

The Mammoth Cave Program for 2009

Four classroom teachers were chosen from over 20 applications for the 2009 Geoscience Teacher-in-the-Park Internship at Mammoth Cave National Park (MACA). Successful candidates included one elementary level teacher; one middle school teacher; and two high school teachers.

The program was expanded from three to four slots for the summer of 2009 as a result of the resignation of one individual selected in 2008. Money originally designated for his position was allowed to be carried over to the 2009 program. This allowed all teacher interns to work in pairs – a situation that provided improved personal safety; enabled MACA to offer an expanded list of research possibilities; and allowed the teachers to choose areas of research more in line with their personal preferences, interests, and professional / classroom needs and requirements.

The four individuals faced a time limitation this summer. An early spring ice storm had closed area schools for 1-2 weeks. This, along with normal snow and/or flu closures, pushed the final school year closing from mid-May into June. Fewer summer "vacation" hours were thus available for the interns to complete their basic requirement of 200 program hours. All four 2009 Interns worked weekdays, evenings and weekends in order to complete the required research hours prior to school openings scheduled for the last week of July.

As a mark of their interest and enthusiasm, each of the 2009 Intern teachers have returned to the park several times since the start of their new school year to continue working on several projects begun during the summer program – notably the setting and retrieving of dye "bugs" used in cave hydrologic studies; with ongoing identification, monitoring and eradication of alien and invasive species in a karst prairie restoration project; and to collect temperature / relative humidity data changes along cave passageways.

The 2009 program has provided an opportunity to expand the park's citizen science and volunteer capability directly because the involvement of these teachers. One of our summer Interns brought his nephew (a college senior hydrology major) to the park as a volunteer for approximately 160 hours of work on cave hydrology. One Intern brought her class to assist with an invasive species eradication program. One Intern brought her class to the park to collect relative humidity data in Great Onyx Cave. One Intern has requested a partnership between his elementary school and the Mammoth Cave Environmental Education Office. A high school student of one Intern has accompanied her teacher after school to collect hydrologic dye "bugs" placed in pools and streams along approximately six-miles of cave passages.

What activities occurred this summer?

During the summer of 2009, the Geoscience-Teachers-in-the-Park Interns worked on a variety of projects:

  • Working closely with projects initiated and conducted by the 2009 Geoscientist-in-the-Park, Western Kentucky University's Hoffman Research Institute and their visiting scientists from China, MACA scientists, and other scientists working in the park,
  • Obtained and documented GPS coordinates for newly discovered cave entrances located within Mammoth Cave National Park,
  • Collected data for an ongoing water quality monitoring project,
  • Assisted in the collection of baseline data to monitor trail conditions and document erosion due to trail use,
  • Collected sediment samples to provide baseline data for a mercury monitoring project,
  • Assisted with a hydrological study that included a dye trace, the collection of baseline data, and ongoing change-outs of the dye receptors,
  • Assisted with a bat research project focused on Rafinesque's big-eared bats,
  • Assisted in a long-term national bird banding project,
  • Participated in the filming of a documentary focused on Mammoth Cave National Park'
  • Provided expertise and guidance on ways the film footage could be used in classrooms – for podcasts, 2-5 minute educational clips, etc.
  • Eradicated exotic, invasive plant species in the karst prairie remnants and restoration areas,
  • Learned techniques to survey and map caves. Brainstormed ways to use these skills to teach mathematics, geography and mapping in the classroom,
  • Located and documented ginseng and goldenseal populations at MACA,
  • Attended a Climate Change training program to increase knowledge of programs and associated skills that could be incorporated into the classroom.

What activities are planned for the academic year?

Specific activities that have already taken place during this academic year include:

  • An Environmental Sciences curriculum was developed and field tested for high school seniors. The curriculum utilizes knowledge and experience gained during the teacher's internship,
  • One classroom of high school students collected and compared data on animal populations and relative humidity levels along a cave passage in Great Onyx Cave. This cave progresses from extremely wet to extremely dry cave conditions.
  • A female high school student has volunteered to work with her teacher on the collection of hydrologic information through the collection of dye "bugs". All National Park volunteer paperwork has been completed and turned into the park. This interest is a direct result of the cave data collection exercise she experienced with her class earlier in the school semester.
  • Twenty-six (26) high school students were transported to MACA to participate in eradicating invasive species. Students worked along side and interacted with the Southeast Regional Plant Management Team and members of the Nature Conservancy,
  • One Intern brought his class of gifted students to visit the park during the summer. These students were participating in the Upward Bound program offered by the Elizabethtown Community College located 1-hour from the park.
  • A formal partnership agreement is currently being created between Intern's schools and MACA's Environmental Education program,
  • Information on the GTIP program has been presented to all science teachers in one school district,

Planned ways to share the Geoscience Teacher-in-the-Park experience with students:

  • Create a documentary comparing the karst areas of their county with the karst systems of MACA,
  • Work with the Metcalfe County Department of Parks and Recreation to create student led monitoring projects which will utilize a new park currently being created near the Intern's middle school (This local park includes a cave with a stream. The cave stream reputedly contains eyeless cave crayfish.),
  • One Intern has assigned and is working with her students to research, photograph, write and publish a book detailing the major exotic, invasive plant species of Mammoth Cave National Park,
  • All four 2009 Interns plan to use personal experiences and locally based, on-going scientific studies as real-world examples for their students,
  • Work with Mammoth Cave Environmental Education (EE) staff and Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning (MCICSL) staff to provide additional hands-on learning and volunteer opportunities for their students,
  • Use the "What is a scientist?" lesson plan that was developed by the 2007 interns to show students that scientists are not necessarily the stereotypical "old guy in a lab coat with a chemistry set." The 2009 Teacher Interns hope the lesson plan will ignite an interest in science among their students and encourage them to pursue scientific careers,