The Critter Control Project was one thing Barb Paulekas just couldn't leave behind when she decided to transfer from the Hayden School District to Steamboat Springs this year.
Last year Paulekas, who now teaches fifth grade at Strawberry Park Elementary School, co-founded the wildly successful roadkill mapping project with Hayden fourth-grade teacher Laura LeBrun.
This year, Paulekas and fellow fifth-grade teacher Judy Ross are implementing the project at Strawberry Park in hopes it will not only teach Steamboat students how to use Global Information Systems technology but also increase the project's usefulness for state agencies such as the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Division of Wildlife.
Students who are part of the Critter Control Project map locations of roadkill found on U.S. Highway 40, determine the type of animal killed and attempt to determine reasons why particular animals cross the highway in specific areas.
The data is given to the DOW and CDOT, which hope to use it to create solutions that will save the lives of animals and humans.
The unusual project has garnered media attention, including newspaper articles, a TV news spot and a brief write-up in Newsweek.
"Road kill is really an unusual subject for a community mapping project," said Sylvia Dennis, coordinator of the Yampa Valley Community Mapping Program, which provides GPS devices and training for Hayden and Steamboat students working on the project.
Strawberry Park fifth-graders received their first lesson in using GPS technology Wednesday, when Dennis, Ross, Paulekas and DOW area wildlife managers Libbie Miller and Jim Haskins led the students on a "treasure hunt" in Strawberry Park.
Students, including Jessie Dunlop and Connor Landusky, learned how to mark specific points on handheld GPS units, a process they will repeat next week on U.S. 40.
"We're saving animals and we get to use GPS," said 10-year-old Dunlop.
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