Looks of awe struck the faces of six high school students from South Korea as a science teacher at Westview Middle School in Longmont showed them a cast-off elk antler in a classroom Thursday morning.
The foreign students are on a five-day trip to the United States as part of a program sponsored by NASA, and were amazed at the size of the antler and the perspective it provided of the bulk of its owner.
The six South Korean teens became even more impressed by videos of bull elk clashing their heads in bouts for mates in Rocky Mountain National Park after holding the antler in Westview Middle School science teacher Daniel Cribby's classroom.
An interpreter for the students, who attend Masan Yongma High School in Masan, a city in the southeast Korean peninsula, told Cribby the students are not accustomed to having wildlife such as elk, mountain lions, bobcats and bears just a drive away as it is in Longmont.
The teenagers are most familiar with squirrels and other city-dwelling animals that live in Masan with its more than 400,000 people, said Cho SooKyung, the translator and a researcher for the Korea Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Creativity.
The students won a five-day trip to the U.S. as an award for their research project for the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment Program, which is associated with NASA and implements data collection and monitoring routines of environ
Communication between Westview students and their teachers in the classroom was also more open and frequent than at schools in South Korea, said Jae Hyeon Shin, 17.
"I like the free style here," Jae said, noting he was required to wear a uniform with a jacket and tie and endure longer school days requiring him to eat dinner while at school in South Korea.
While Jae stared up at the basketball hoops in the Westview gymnasium, he said he wished there was a school basketball team in Masan, and was promised by staff he could shoot baskets in the gym later on in the day.
Su Hyeon Kim and Jae Hyeon Kim, both 18, play for their school's baseball team and follow professional baseball leagues in South Korea, they said.
"He is the best pitcher in our school," Su said of his teammate, Jae Hyeon Kim.
On Saturday, the six South Koreans will travel with Westview students and teachers conducting research in Rocky Mountain National Park as part of the Plains to the Park program, which uses cameras set up in certain locations in the park to capture animal movement.
As Cribby played some of the 2017 footage from the project showing a mountain lion, his seventh-grade Westview student, Sabine Valderrama, said it was the first time their cameras captured one on video.
"They don't experience what we experience. It's been really fun to show them how things work here in each classroom," Westview seventh-grader Narayam Dones-Vega said of touring her school with the older, foreign pupils.
As videos of turkeys wandering Rocky Mountain National Park played, Cribby explained that the appearance of the birds is a sign of climate change, as there were almost never turkey sightings in November or March, but the beginning of winter has become later and the start of spring has become sooner, allowing turkeys to roost in the park.
During the course of their trip to Colorado, the South Korean students will visit the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the CU campus and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, as well as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Denver's National Ice Core Laboratory and Denver Museum of Natural History.