Sunset Elementary School project to be featured in national publication |

Sunset Elementary School project to be featured in national publication

Cheryl Arnett's second-grade students at Sunset Elementary School pose during the 2010-11 school year with copies of the brochure they produced, The Deer Are Here to Stay, regarding the City of Craig's deer population. The brochure will be highlighted in an upcoming national education publication, Smithsonian in Your Classroom.
Ben McCanna

Seth White, a second-grade student at Sunset Elementary School, stands by his classmates while holding a copy of "The Deer Are Here to Stay" — an informational brochure. The brochure was a collaborative project that outlines Craig's urban deer population, and ways to limit the herd from growing.Ben McCanna

On a regular workday, Sunset Elementary School teacher Cheryl Arnett reaches out to about 25 to 30 students. This fall, her lesson plan will expand well beyond the boundaries of her classroom door to affect hundreds of students, maybe more.

And, it will include a little piece of Craig.

Arnett was contacted two weeks ago by the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies of Washington, D.C., about the possibility of including part of her curriculum in its twice-yearly publication, Smithsonian in Your Classroom. The educational magazine includes content for first- through 12th-graders on all subjects regarding the world around them.

Arnett's contribution to the periodical will be the brochure The Deer Are Here to Stay, a project compiled by her second-grade class starting in November 2010 about the deer population of Craig and Moffat County and how it has affected residents.

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The brochure gives advice on how to alleviate deer in the area from becoming rampant in residential areas and not engaging them when they are nearby.

"It'll be used as an example of an environmental problem in a community," Arnett said. "The e-mail I got about it said, 'The kids' advice will be greatly helpful to peers involved in similar projects.'

"We learned that it's a big, big problem in other towns and the kids kind of pinpointed what some of the problems were. Going through the process of discovering that and talking to all the key players was a big thing for them. I'm very interested to what kind of lesson plan the Smithsonian comes up with and how what we did fits into that and how we can build on that and make it even bigger and stronger next time."

Arnett said one of the underlying concepts of the project was learning to take all the possible outcomes into consideration.

"Environmental problems are the toughest because there's so much emotion and opinion and getting people to change the way they live is tough," she said. "It's great for kids to put their heads into it to find out what caused the problem. 'What did we do?' and 'How do we compensate?' If we upset the natural balance then we have to deal with the consequences and it's happening all over the world."

Arnett has regularly used Smithsonian in Your Classroom as a learning tool, as well as its associate website, Her students are especially interested in stories involving animals, such as species of tigers being hunted in great numbers, orangutans of Borneo that have been negatively affected by human industrial movements, or the declining polar bear population as a result of climate change.

During the last school year, Arnett's class also took part in a tree-banding project sponsored by the Smithsonian, in which groups across the globe measured the growth of trees.

Arnett said the organization's efforts in creating an interactive learning experience through its magazine have enhanced not only her students, but also her own worldview.

"It gives teachers great ideas, it guides us," she said. "Looking at the issue about prehistoric climate change helped open my eyes to things that I didn't know anything about."

Arnett said as a result of learning more about this topic, she was able to bring in a representative from Trapper Mine to talk about fossils.

"I would never have thought to ask them about that or taken my kids down that road had I not read the Smithsonian publication," she said.

As part of her contribution to the magazine, Arnett wants to include input from area residents who have been impacted by the deer problem.

She said she received a story from a Moffat County woman who had heard noises in her front yard Halloween night that she believed to be prowlers, only to discover it was deer eating pumpkins on her porch.

"I don't know how many of them they'll include, but that'll certainly give them a choice of something to include," she said. "It's kind of a unique problem to our town, and people must have stories."

Arnett said getting an array of feedback from people in the area will reveal to students that the deer issue is not black and white and that there are no easy solutions to such problems.

For instance, she emphasizes to her students that the way to help the environment doesn't involve a quick fix like eliminating cars and outlawing coal mining in the region.

"Kids are smart enough to be able to think through environmental issues at their own level," she said. "By the time we reach adulthood, I think we're a little more firmly dug into our opinions, and that's why I love children because they see the world in such an innocent way."

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Northwest Colorado residents who have interesting stories about encounters with deer in the region can e-mail their tales to Cheryl Arnett at Arnett said she hopes to include local accounts about the deer population as part of a feature in the educational publication, Smithsonian in Your Classroom.

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