Hayden Critter Control Project makes Newsweek

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— A school project is eliciting national exposure for two Hayden Valley Elementary school classes.

The Critter Control Project, an effort to monitor and map road kill patterns along U.S. Highway 40, will be featured in the March 17 issue of Newsweek magazine.

"We're really, really excited about this," teacher Laura LeBrun said. "(Road kill) is a real-life problem we're investigating. It exists all over the country, and this is a problem we're trying to solve."

LeBrun and fellow teacher Barb Paulekas last year decided they wanted to teach their second- and fourth-graders how to use Global Information Systems technology to create maps.

After taking GIS classes through The Orton Family Foundation and becoming familiar with how to use the technology, they needed a project to help tie it all together.

A call to Jim Haskins, the Colorado Division of Wildlife's Hayden-based district wildlife manager, solved that dilemma.

Haskins offered several project suggestions, and studying road kill patterns was a perfect fit.

"This is kind of a cool thing," Haskins said. "It's neat technology, too. It might shape some of the kids' futures."

The students map locations of road kill, determine the type of animal and attempt to establish reasons why these animals are crossing the highway at specific points.

If a road kill pattern is exposed, solutions can be implemented and animals can be saved, Haskins said.

The students keep the Division of Wildlife updated with recent data, LeBrun said.

Plus, the kids are excited about doing something that has the potential to have a positive impact.

"We can see it down the road making a difference," Paulekas said.

Down the road probably will equate to four of five years, Haskins said.

"This is a long-term project," he said. "This is something we have to document over a long period of time."

The national attention the project is receiving is surprising, but could be beneficial, Haskins said.

"This type of exposure will help motivate these kids," he said.

The project meets state curriculum standards, and the project's constantly updated map stretches the length of one of the school's hallways.

This school year's work on the project will end in May with a PowerPoint presentation by the students that will be open to the public.

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