Each year, Siobhan’s teacher, Cindy Cobb, takes her third grade class on a field trip to see sage grouse dance. This is an opportunity for the kids in our rural school. Sage grouse are an iconic western bird, and lots of attention is being paid to them due to the possibility that they might become listed as an endangered species. Each spring, the birds gather on open areas in their sagebrush habitat, known as “leks”.
Male sage grouse dance in order to impress the females, who wander among the preening males looking for “the one”. They spread their fan of tail-feathers, puff out their white chests and make a distinctive “cooing” sound.
“Reminds me of people,” quipped Tony Mong, the Wyoming Game and Fish biologist who accompanied the students to the dancing ground.
Miss Cobb explained that she likes “hands-on” teaching, and she is known for the many field trips she sponsors for her students.
“My philosophy of teaching is based on a Chinese proverb,” she said. “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
“How many kids, or even adults, have seen sage grouse dance?” she asked.
Next, the class visited man-made wetlands near Dad, 20 miles north of Baggs. This project diverts water from Muddy Creek and has created wetlands on a formerly dry sagebrush flat. It provides a stopover for migratory birds and habitat for a number of species. Here, Tony explained the various ecosystem services provided by such wetlands, using items swiped from the family kitchen to illustrate.
These wetlands are considered “urban” even though they are definitely way out in the country. This is due to the high level of oil and gas development in the area.