While conservationists refine their efforts to protect the elusive woodland caribou in Idaho's panhandle, nearly 90 third graders at Hailey Elementary School are doing their part to save elk, which are regular victims of motor vehicle accidents--as many as three a week during the fall and early winter--along Idaho Highway 75.
"It's a serious problem," said teacher Wanda Baxter. "It's traumatic for any age, let alone 8- or 9-year-olds."
Baxter and her fellow third-grade teachers at Hailey Elementary--Tracey Munk, Iliana Sandoval, Patty Scherer and Lisa Thilmont--said their students started brainstorming ideas to save the elk soon after they began their unique school project.
"It's called Harrowing Highways," said Scherer. "And the students agreed that they wanted to make our community more aware of the issue."
The students, through a series of bake sales, raised an impressive $500 to print and produce specially designed bumper stickers.
"And the kids agreed on the design, which reads, 'Keep Them Alive on 75,'" said Scherer. "It also reads, 'Be Aware, Drive With Care.'"
The bumper stickers have been the talk of the town in Hailey, with the first allotment selling out in a flash.
"We just ordered 250 more," said Baxter. "They sell for $3 here at the school and at some local stores."
The teachers said their students want to invest their proceeds into what they said would be "phase two" of Harrowing Highways.
"The kids have an idea to build life-size silhouettes of elk and moose and line them along the highway," said Baxter. "The kids hope that will further remind drivers that there are animals in the area and please drive slowly."
The teachers will be working with their students to craft letters to local landowners and the Idaho Transportation Department to secure permission to install the permanent silhouettes. The letter writing will commence when students return from their holiday break on Monday, Jan. 7. In the meantime, more than a few Wood River Valley residents can expect a "Keep Them Alive" bumper sticker in their Christmas stockings.