Ah, summer, when the wildflowers bloom, the trails dry for a few months and an influx of short-term workers floods Jackson.
If you’d like to be part of the flood, applications to be a summer Teton Science Schools AmeriCorps member are open. The goal of the program is to develop service members as educators. In Jackson, that involves growing science, technology, engineering and math literacy.
“They’re here to increase our capacity and the capacity of our partner organizations to build STEM literacy, particularly in out-of-school programming,” Director of Field Education Naomi Heindel said.
Teten Science Schools is looking to fill 19 summer positions within its field education program, as well as one at the Doug Coombs Foundation and one at the Teton Literacy Center. The size of the program roughly doubles in the summer because of the season’s busy nature.
Ongoing positions at Teton Youth and Family Services and the Teton Raptor Center are also available. The program, funded by Serve Wyoming, hosts more than 40 volunteers yearly, with several terms at Teton Science Schools, and it places members at partner host sites, too.
To date, it has resulted in 15,000 hours of service at 46 nonprofit and government organizations through projects that included building and maintaining trails in Star Valley that are meant to be used alongside trail guides that teach hikers about ecology. Another project involved designing and enhancing curriculum and signage at Vertical Harvest to augment education about microgreens and local food systems.
“It’s grown in size and scope since 2009,” Heindel said.
Members live on the schools’ Jackson campus (room and board are taken care of) and receive an Education Award from the Corporation for National and Community Service upon completion of their service.
Brenna Swetman is a current AmeriCorps member. She began in January and was drawn to the program by interests in community service and the outdoors.
“I was also excited about being able to work with students and engage them with our natural surroundings, especially in a time where technology and screens are dominating our society,” Swetman said.
Her daily schedule varies, but she co-leads field education programs and creates curricula for the group. She’s also been paired with Girls Actively Participating, or GAP!, and helps with its after-school programming.
She’s learned a whole host of things during her tenure: place-based education and the value of student-centered, inquiry-based learning, Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem ecology, the importance of community engagement projects and personal leadership skills as well.
When her term ends next month, Swetman plans to become a summer instructor for Teton Science Schools.
“Beyond that, I hope to either continue my involvement in place-based education or dive into wilderness medicine,” she said. “More generally, I hope to always be striving to increase accessibility to the outdoors for everyone.”
Many of the 350 AmeriCorps members over the years stick around the valley after their service is over. Approximately 40 percent of past AmeriCorps members have worked at Teton Science Schools in some capacity after the program — like David McCoy, a member in the summer of 2016, who is now a mentor for the cohort and a field educator.
He first came to the Tetons, and Teton Science Schools, on a sixth-grade school field trip. When he wasn’t quite sure what to do with his life, it made sense to revisit.
“I was drawn to this program because I had loved being at TSS as a student and had always wanted to come back,” McCoy said.
He co-taught field education programs. He also served with Teton County Weed and Pest, hiking trails and marking them for invasive species. The experience proved to be pivotal.
“I instantly fell in love with teaching,” McCoy said. “Both of my parents are teachers, and I had never considered myself a teacher until I started doing it at TSS.”
He also found an “incredible group of people.”
“Everyone at this organization is extremely passionate about the work we are doing, which makes it an amazing place to be,” McCoy said.
As soon as McCoy graduated from college, he was scheming ways to return.
“I knew that I had to come back,” he said.
Interested readers can apply at