Annual 4th Grade Wildlife Expo persists

Since 2003, Teton County Weed and Pest District has helped to host the annual Wildlife Expo for Teton County 4th graders and their teachers.

Each spring, a few hundred 4th graders would gather to learn from a host of local natural resource entities that were part of the Jackson Hole Weed Management Association. In addition to TCWP, the JHWMA included BTNF, GTNP, WGF, SRF, the National Elk Refuge, the Cougar fund, and any organization for whom invasive plants were a threat to the resource they managed.

Mary Cernicek, now the Public Affairs Officer for BTNF, presented at the 2005 Wildlife Expo

The annual wildlife expo is an event that brings all of these organizations together each spring to teach 4th graders about the important work of these local organizations and how it helps wildlife. The event has taken place every year, rain or shine, since 2003…even during the COVID-19 pandemic! 

Wildlife Expo 2020 still happened despite the pandemic, but it was different from all previous events. Expo 2021 will also be different.

Meta Dittmer is the Education and Communication Program Coordinator for TCWP. She has coordinated this event since 2017 and she had to get creative last year. “It has been such a legacy – ongoing since 2003, I didn’t want to break that track record,” she claimed.

So she convinced those organizations who could participate to create videos of their presentations and shared the videos with the 4th grade teachers.

“We only had 5 of our usual 10 organizations participate in 2019, but it was better than nothing and the teachers appreciated it.”

Chris Wight of WGF teaching 4th graders about Aquatic Invasive Species at the 2015 Wildlife Expo

This year Meta has a different plan for the Expo. Each participating organization will develop an activity that the teachers will do in their classrooms, and create a box containing all materials for the activity.   Each box will be delivered to participating classrooms accompanied by a video introducing the presenter and their organization. The boxes of activities will rotate through the participating 4th grade classrooms during the last month of school.

“I love the way this pandemic has encouraged us to think outside the box and get creative about how to keep our programs happening despite these constraints,” says Meta. The perseverance of the 4th Grade Wildlife Expo, now in its 19th year, is a great example of this.