Summer Class Travels to National Parks

Eight students and two faculty members spent 11 days traveling to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons national parks as part of a special topics exercise science course.  

Taught by associate professor of exercise science, Jennifer Hurst, the five-week summer course titled “Exploring Yellowstone and Grand Teton” combined learning about the national parks within the classroom and the excursion that occurred July 16-26. Hurst and staff member Cathy Monroe served as the trip leaders.

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Truman students stop for a picture near Beartooth Pass in Montana before reaching the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Pictured, top row, left to right: Kelly Ferguson, Richie Schumacher, Brendan O’Brien and Katie Shannon. Bottom row, left to right: Madison Bray, Taylor Wilson, Carmen Holahan and Scott Nelson.

The course represented students from different majors and was available to take as an elective.  

Prior to the trip, students learned about the national park system and the specific histories, ecology and geology of the two national parks visited.  

“The focus was on exploring how the national park idea reflected American values and society and the diversity of people that were involved in the National Parks movements,” said Hurst.

Students also learned high altitude physiology, personal safety issues and basic map and compass skills that were applied in their travels. During the trip students experienced the ecosystems and environments of both parks through various physical activities.

Their first stop was to Yellowstone National Park where they visited a series of local monuments through hiking.

Junior psychology major, Brendan O’Brien described his experience as incredible.  

“We learned while there that we had to rely on each other a great deal - running low on water, helping set up camp, getting encouragement on long hikes or rock climbing, and just sharing the awesome experiences along the way,” O’Brien said.
In Grand Tetons National Park, the group toured the National Museum of Wildlife Art, whitewater rafted, and continued exploring through hiking.  

Students were asked to write and reflect upon their relationship with nature. They did this before and after their trip to the national parks.

Students were also required to put together a creative project representing their relationship with nature through the use of imagery, videos and or journal entries collected on their trip. These projects were given on the last day of class.

Hurst hopes to teach this course again next year as a writing enhanced course that can fulfill the physical activity portion of the well-being requirement.

“It was the most amazing teaching experience I have ever had. I have never been more engaged with my students and the content of my course as I was teaching this course,” Hurst said.