Contact CNR


College of Natural Resources
phone: (208) 885-8981
toll free: 88-88-UIDAHO
fax: (208) 885-5534

875 Perimeter Drive MS 1142
Moscow, ID 83844-1142

CNR students foster early environmental science education

The University of Idaho’s McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS) is a one-of-a-kind facility that gives College of Natural Resources (CNR) graduate students the unique opportunity to educate Idaho fifth- and sixth-graders about our natural world. About 130 miles from the Moscow campus, the McCall Field Campus borders Payette Lake and Ponderosa State Park.

While the facility was originally used to train foresters, MOSS is now used by University of Idaho graduate students, classroom teachers, and elementary school students to learn about the area’s ecosystems, including:
  • Marsh wetlands
  • Sagebrush meadow
  • Ponderosa forest
  • Streams and lakes
Students conduct various types of ecological measurements of those systems, including water chemistry, canopy cover, ground cover, and soil characterization. Later, students return to campus and engage in lab work to explore the meaning of what they found. Thanks to a $50,000 contribution by Clara Bleak (’46), the MOSS program initially was expanded to run for 10 weeks. Other means have allowed the science school to operate year-round.

Graduate students are constantly comparing notes, offering constructive criticism and looking for ways to improve their teaching and leadership roles during their semester-long residency at MOSS. Graduate students in the program consistently report a positive experience in working with the kids.

"The thing I remember most was the openness and willingness of the kids to learn and experience anything,” said graduate student Katie Wilson. “There were many moments when the kids would make a connection in their own way about how a system worked; I wouldn’t exchange these moments for anything."

Other incentives for graduates to participate in the MOSS program include tuition waivers, room and board stipends, and teaching assistantships.

Elizabeth Rieben, a CNR graduate and now an education specialist with the Bureau of Land Management, describes her experience at MOSS as one of the most rewarding and purposeful learning experiences she has had at the University of Idaho. Besides the instructional experience she received, Rieben also praises the close relationships she formed with other MOSS instructors.

"There is just no way to describe the friendships I made with the other instructors during my semester there, except to say that I know they will last a lifetime," she said.

The long-term goal of the science school is to host weeklong residencies that become a regular part of Idaho schools' science programs. The science school will eventually be open year-round. Curriculum and associated activities are based on best educational practices and current state and national science education standards.

CNR faculty and students.