High-schoolers need to learn science is more than working in a lab, Challis biology teacher Rebecca Auwen said, which is why her 10th-grade students spent Monday going up and down a football field goalpost with climbing gear.
“I like to give them an awareness of the different branches of biology that exist,” Auwen said as David Deschaine of the Forest Service helped a group of students hoist their friend into the air with ropes.
Auwin said she likes to have agencies like the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management speak to her students. Hearing from such professionals gives students multiple perspectives on the study of biology and what it sometimes takes to be a biologist, she said.
As the students took turns getting into harnesses to practice entering and exiting caves, Deschaine said community outreach shows a more fun and challenging side to biology. To navigate caves like the ones found in the Salmon-Challis Forest, Deschaine said knowing how to safely drop in and get out is essential.
Along with that, Deschaine said once someone is in a cave they need to be OK with moving in extremely tight spaces. To simulate that sensation, Forest Service workers had students crawl through squeeze boxes. The exercise helps cave explorers desensitize themselves to claustrophobia, Deschaine said, and serves as a test to see how small of a space they can fit in and move through.
Even though the object of the lessons is safety through proper technique and practice, Deschaine admitted they’re also trying to show the students a good time.
“This is the fun activity,” Deschaine said as sophomores Alden Stewart and Ben Hill helped classmate Jaiden Deschand into a harness, laughing as they did.
Forest Service employees also discussed the geology of caves and the different wildlife that occupy them. Such activities reveal the adventurous side of science, Auwen said. At its best, the lesson will keep students interested in the sciences. But if nothing else, Auwen said getting the class to learn outside is always nice.
“Better than being in a classroom,” Stewart said as he worked the rope through a metal clip on the harness.