Located near Centura Health in Avon right off of I-70. An innovative natural science learning campus for residents and visitors of the Eagle Valley. Free and open to the public.

318 Walking Mountains Lane, Avon, CO 81620

Located at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola on Vail Mountain out of Lionshead Village, Vail. All visitors must have a pass to ride the gondola. Free and open to the public with valid gondola pass.
Nestled along Gore Creek near the Betty Ford Alpine Garden and Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail Village.
601 Vail Valley Drive, Vail, CO 81657

Walking Mountains Blog

Research in Action: Foley Graduate Fellowship

Posted by Walking Mountains on Jan 3, 2023 12:28:20 PM
Walking Mountains

Walking Mountains Science Center's 4th Cohort of Foley Graduate Fellows. From L to R: Natalie Neuwirth, Rachel Juritsch, Anna Kiewra, and Kaylyn Murphy.

Graduating in July of 2023, Walking Mountain’s fourth cohort of the Foley Graduate Fellowship program are currently hard at work collecting data for their action research projects. For the past year and a half, Anna Kiewra, Kaylyn Murphy, Natalie Neuwirth, and Rachel Juritsch have been teaching natural science based school programs, summer science camps, and also attending graduate school to receive their M.A. in Science Education from the University of Northern Colorado. 

Our cohort has had the unique opportunity to overlap with the previous cohort that consisted of Helen Thompson, Lydia Delahanty, Riley Gaines, and Trisha Lavery. When we arrived in May of 2022, we were welcomed into the program and they graciously showed us the ropes of summer camp and allowed us to shadow their teaching in the fall. 

We’ve compiled some of our favorite moments from over the last year and a half: 

  • We love working, living, and exploring together in the beautiful Eagle County. We feel beyond grateful for the opportunity to educate youth and encourage the next generation of environmental stewards in this valley. 
  • Last October, we got the chance to write and develop a brand new curriculum for our field science school programs. We worked together as a team of four to create a second grade curriculum focusing on the interdependent relationships between plants and animals called A Thistle and a Bee. 
  • As we begin our second school year, we enjoy working with returning students and familiar faces. Nothing beats, “I remember you from summer camp!” to start off a day in the field. 

The action research component of the Foley Graduate Fellowship program allows our graduate students to focus on an area of their teaching within their field that could use improvement. In the end, their research will not only benefit their own teaching, but WMSC programming and the field of science education as a whole. This cohort chose critical topics and spent a year and a half researching, gathering data, and writing research papers with guidance from their peers and advisors. Here’s an overview of the projects below: 

Anna Kiewra is exploring how the inclusion of free play in field science programs can create space for natural learning opportunities and increase the likelihood of students playing in the future. Growing up, Anna’s foundational childhood memories include imaginative free play opportunities that allowed her to build a connection with nature and a desire to protect the place that she was able to explore in. She wants to recreate this experience for 5th-8th grade students to enhance their overall experience at Walking Mountains and hopes that students will find joy in natural spaces to spark stewardship in the next generation.

Kaylyn Murphy is exploring the possibility of including nature journaling in field science programs in order to improve student engagement. Nature journaling is the art of sitting with nature, exploring science through artistic expression. Typically, students complete a journal filled with prompts and activities, similar to a workbook. For Kaylyn’s research, Third through Fifth graders will be given a blank journal open for personalization to use in more creative ways. Kaylyn hopes that students will see nature journaling as a new tool for science learning and use it as a means of reflecting on and connecting with nature, building the seeds for future environmental stewardship.

Natalie Neuwirth is adding hands-on plant activities into our field science programs to combat the idea of plant blindness found in much of science conservation and environmental education. Her goal is to bring more awareness and shift student attitudes towards plants through plant education. By switching the narrative from animal-focused activities to plant-focused activities in programs for Kindergarten through Second grade, Natalie will explore if students can gain a deeper understanding of the plants that are essential in our ecosystems. 

Rachel Juritsch is incorporating technology in the form of social media into her afterschool STEM program for middle school students. She hopes to find ways to use technology that increases engagement and creates meaningful conversations about how social media can be used as a platform for their experiences with science education. She aspires to improve the experience for her middle school students in a way that is relatable and inspires students to discuss science topics with as much enthusiasm as we do! 

Currently, our class is working on implementing our research projects and collecting data. With bittersweet feelings, we are anticipating our upcoming graduation from the Foley Graduate Fellowship in the summer of 2023!


Topics: Environmental Education, School Programs, Staff Spotlight

Walking Mountains

Written by Walking Mountains

Our mission is to awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship and sustainability through natural science education.