Discovery in learning leads to empowerment in thinking, creativity, and lifelong learning. Mentoring an empowered learning process builds on real world learning, especially nature-based curiosity and discovery. The Greek historian Plutarch indicated that the mind was “a fire to be kindled.” Creative discovery is a catalytic learning tool, as recognized by author Virginia Woolf, who stated, “The creative power at once brings the whole universe to order.” A nurturing, process-based approach to learning, open to the world and creativity, guides a strong mentorship process for self-inspired, empowered learners.
Try the inspiration of wild sheep
Animals and nature are perfect companions for sparking curiosity and inspiration. Often, young learners, especially urban youngsters, discover farms and domestic animals before encountering animal species in wild habitats. The appreciation of domestic animals can serve as a springboard toward the discovery of related animal species in a wild habitat.
In the Western United States, two species of wild sheep, the Dall and the Bighorn, are found. The adaptable bighorn sheep ranges from Canada south to Mexico. For eager learners, exploring wild sheep can be exhilarating. The wonder of observing the effortless way the wild bighorn sheep can scramble across and negotiate steep heights, bound across the seemingly impossible terrain of wild mountainsides, can be a jaw-dropping experience.
Nature learning notes
Bighorn sheep are magnificent, and their horns are beautiful. The striking horns of an adult bighorn sheep ram can weigh up to 30 lbs. Ewes, the female sheep, are smaller and their horns are shorter with only a slight curve. Young, wild lambs have all the child appeal of any soft, domesticated farmyard lamb.
The agile bighorn sheep species are related to goats, and their extraordinary balance in rugged terrain is aided by split hooves and rough hoof bottoms. Bighorn sheep live in social groups, although adult rams tend to live apart in bachelor groups, coming to the flocks of females and young during the mating season.
Light a spark
Flock behavior is an intriguing aspect of bighorn sheep. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, flock dynamics appear in groups larger than four. This gregarious behavior in bighorn sheep “allows them to bond closely to other sheep and preferentially to related flock members, and the “flock mentality movements” have evolved to help “protect individuals from predators.”
Whether wild or domestic, sheep display the protective, gregarious nature of flock behavior. So, if access to viewing the wild species in its natural environment is unavailable, consider a visit to a farm to view domesticated sheep’s behavior or to a zoo to observe bighorn sheep behavior.
Field observation skills are important. Encourage your learner to note aspects of the bighorn sheep’s (alternatively or in conjunction, view the same behaviors in domestic sheep) flock behavior. Observing movements of flock behavior leads naturally to insights on leadership, dominance, and reactions to danger.
Opening paths of learning and knowledge
Mentor creatively and deeply to encourage higher level thinking skills. Encourage further avenues of inquiry and thought with your young learner. For example, discuss what concepts underlie Alexander the Great’s quote that “I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” Chat about what might have prompted George Washington to say, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” Build wide pathways as thoughts swirl in discussion of Winston Churchill’s remark that “Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.”
Best opportunities to find bighorn sheep suggestions
Certain national parks, both in the United States and Canada, provide the strongest opportunities to see bighorn sheep in the wild. Certain zoos feature bighorn sheep habitats. Some “best opportunity” suggestions on the wildlife viewing of bighorn sheep include the following.
a. The National Bighorn Sheep Center is in Wyoming in downtown Dubois, where a guided tour can be scheduled. The Whiskey Mountain Habitat Area near Dubois, Wyoming, is home to the largest wintering Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep herd in North America.
b. Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, is noted for its wildlife viewing. In Jasper National Park, on a Maligne Lake Road drive along Medicine Lake, or on Highway 16 to Maligne Lake or along the Athabasca River are good opportunities for spotting bighorn sheep. See the slideshow accompanying this article for some views of bighorn sheep viewing in Jasper National Park.
c. Colorado’s Denver Zoo has a Mountain Sheep Habitat that contains two natural style “mountains” which house both Dall Sheep and Bighorn Sheep. For more natural, wildlife viewing opportunities along driving routes in Colorado, consider Mount Evans Scenic Byway and Bighorn Sheep Canyon.
d. Tucson’s premiere Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has a bighorn sheep exhibit with a breeding population, so there’s also the opportunity to view a bighorn sheep lamb.
e. Arizona’s Phoenix Zoo has a desert mountain environment bighorn sheep exhibit. For further insight, Phoenix Zoo has a “Bighorn Sheep Training” Google Glass video that shows what it’s like to train a herd of bighorn sheep.
An inspiring learning tool
Observing magnificent bighorn sheep is a memorable experience. President Theodore Roosevelt, deeply appreciative of the environment’s wonders, once wrote about the bighorn sheep’s wonderful, wild nature, stating, “There exists no animal more hardy, nor any better fitted to grapple with the extremes of heat and cold. Droughts, scanty pasturage, or deep snows make it shift its ground, but never mere variation of temperature.”
An appreciation for nature and its resources is important. In some places, like Arizona’s Catalina Mountains, wildlife management programs are underway to help return desert bighorn sheep to former, wild habitats. Defenders of Wildlife point out that almost 1/3 of California’s desert bighorn sheep populations have died out in the past century. Our world’s ecosystem is vulnerable, and human actions, present and future, still can change a shadowed equation. Mentoring with real world resources and experiences can help make your empowered learner a strong, thoughtful global citizen.
Find the take in this article to be helpful? National and International Education and Travel materials come from a husband and wife team, who travel extensively as published writers and photographers. One is an experienced scientist with a doctorate in Material Sciences and background in pharmaceutical and optics research. The other is former Vice President of GKE, who served as a US Web-based Education Commissioner during the Clinton administration, and was a former US National Tech&Learning Teacher of the Year. SUBSCRIBE: To keep current on similar articles, view the suggested links below and click the free, subscribe to their articles.