Soda Creek Elementary students work on bear awareness project

Teresa Ristow
A bear jumps out of a dumpster in 2011 at the Selbe Apartments on Rollingstone Drive. Students in two Soda Creek Elementary classes worked this spring on an awareness campaign to keep bears out of the trash.

— A partnership between two classes at Soda Creek Elementary is aiming to make students and the community more aware of practices to keep bears wild, safe and out of people’s trash.

Natalie Sattler’s first-grade class and Laura Kalmes’ fourth-grade class partnered as buddy classes last fall and received a $350 Challenge Fund grant to pursue a project that would benefit the community.

After learning about the Jane Goodall Roots and Shoots Community Mapping Project during a STEM conference, the two teachers pursued a mapping project with the students inspired by the Jane Goodall project.

“It’s an international association, and they focus on kids doing work within their communities and helping out by identifying a project they want work on,” Sattler said.

The teachers started by asking students to “map” important things in the community, either by using a physical map or listing neighborhood features.

A theme of animals emerged through the mapping, and the classes decided to focus their efforts on an awareness campaign involving bears in the community.

“It was a good opportunity to work with the older students to have a little bit of mentorship and leadership,” Sattler said.

Students worked in groups and received help from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to create an assembly presentation for the school, and a student budget committee decided the best use of the group’s grant was to purchase about 2,000 door hangers that could help educate the community about bears and trash.

The door hangers will be handed out by partnering agencies this summer and will feature student artwork, an easy-to-understand breakdown of bear-related city ordinances and information about bear-safe trash containers.

Sattler said the project allowed young students to take an active role in improving the community.

“We live in an area with a lot of wildlife, and we need to consider that,” Sattler said. “The kids were excited, and they took some ownership that they were doing something that’s going to be helpful to the community.”

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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