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Margaret G. Zackowitz

ZipUSA: 83011 On Assignment

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Penny De Los Santos

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Brian Strauss (top) and Rebecca Hale


ZipUSA: 83011 On Assignment Author ZipUSA: 83011 On Assignment Author
ZipUSA: 83011

Field Notes From Author
Margaret G. Zackowitz

Best Worst Quirkiest
    The grad students who teach the visiting school groups at Teton Science were amazing people. Some were just a couple of years out of undergraduate programs. The rest had been teachers or worked as park rangers, firefighters, or at other outdoorsy pursuits. All were extremely committed to environmental education.
    One morning while hiking in the mountains, one of the visiting middle school kids found a bloody leg bone—hoof still attached—of some kind of  antelope. This would have been enough to send me running back to camp yelling "Sasquatch!" but the grad student calmly explained that it had probably been left by a coyote a few hours before. Then he cracked the leg bone open to show the kids how the marrow can tell you whether it's been a hard or easy winter for the antelope. (I'm guessing hard if somebody's cracking open your bloody leg bone to check out your bone marrow). Other pieces of this creature were sprinkled down the rest of the trail; I was almost afraid to look. But the kids were fascinated, and I felt privileged to see people who were passionate about teaching work with kids who were passionate about learning.

    When the dining hall's coffee machine broke down, I almost did too. It didn't help that the preternaturally perky grad students didn't much care. The thing was scheduled to be fixed the next day, after all, and, as one of them said, "It's okay. There's herbal tea!" Good thing I had to drive into Jackson (several miles away) that day. Okay, it was 7 a.m. The person I was going to interview probably wasn't even awake yet, but a bagel shop was open. I got a cappuccino, and suddenly all was right with the world. Or at least that corner of Wyoming.

    My customary interaction with the animal kingdom involves strolling down sidewalks with a small apricot poodle. So I never got used to Kelly's ever present wildlife—moose, bison, elk, coyote—walking around like they owned the place (as indeed they used to). The moose are almost part of the furniture at the school. You're supposed to give them a wide berth, since they can get testy. When I was there in early spring, they looked not so much like moose as like the world's most hideous horses: tall, skinny, and antlerless, shedding their winter coats in huge ragged chunks. They ambled all through the clearing where the cabins are, blocking the paths and nibbling at whatever looked good to them. I'll stick to poodles, I think.


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