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Draper Park Middle School field trip makes social studies, science core come alive

Oct 28, 2016 09:24AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Draper Park Middle School seventh-grade students had a chance to touch reptiles as one of the rotations during their Sept. 16 field trip. (Amy Valdez/Draper Park Middle School)

By Julie Slama | Julie@mycityjournals.com



Draper, Utah - Four years ago, in an effort to save the school money but still offer students firsthand learning experiences, Draper Park Middle School teacher Amy Valdez organized a walking field trip to Draper City Park where she arranged guest speakers to talk on subjects related to their curriculum.

That experience continues each fall. Seventh-graders this year had four stations representing social studies and science: Reptile Rescue, Sub Zero, Hawk Watch International and Mountain Men. The speakers joined about 170 students on Sept. 16.

“The kids really like it; they have a chance and can interact, so it’s not just looking at exhibits in a museum,” Valdez said. “Plus they have a chance to get out, get active by walking to the park.”

Grouped by their first-period classes, the students rotated through the four sessions, petting reptiles, seeing a hawk and falcon up close, sampling ice cream and learning about beaver fur.

“A lot the students said they enjoyed learning about liquid nitrogen, especially with the frozen marshmallow demonstration. They were fascinated by the number of reptiles being saved. They learned about raptors native to Utah and learned their own custodian doubles as a mountain man,” she said.

At the Reptile Rescue session, they learned how the speaker houses snakes, lizards and other reptiles — even an alligator — that have been rescued in Utah. 

“They were able to touch some reptiles and take selfies. Some students wrote about their experience and how they learned there are many types of science they hadn’t thought of before,” Valdez said.

At the Sub Zero session, the students learned what happens with increased pressure and dropping temperatures of liquid nitrogen. 

“They were entertained with the nitrogen ‘smoke’ that came out of their mouths, but they also learned properties of gas laws, nitrogen and application of science to food — specifically, the ice cream they sampled,” she said.

The nonprofit education and rescue organization Hawk Watch International taught students the falcon is one of the fastest on the planet and that the Willard Bay/Farmington area is a great bird migration and watching area, Valdez said.

“It ties into our animal adaption unit, but it was engaging the students in learning more about these raptors,” she said.

Les Brown, head custodian at Draper Park Middle School, often spends his off-duty hours at mountain man re-enactments and volunteered to don leather clothes and teach students about the rendezvous and life back in the mountain man days.

“He taught the students how they use every part of the animal both for eating and clothing. The fringe on his coat could be torn off to be used as twine or even to eat if they were starving. Beaver pelts were big at the time, but not for the fur, but to make pelt top hats which were popular at the time,” she said.

He also demonstrated how to use a horn for gun powder, what mountain men kept in the leather satchels, how to start a fire with flint and how to set up a beaver trap, Valdez said.

“He had hard tack for the kids to try and all of them thought it was disgusting. Then laughed when he said, ‘It’s why it could last all year,’” she said.

After each 40-minute rotation, the students ate sack lunches and returned to the school.

“It really made it a fun learning experience where students bonded and that we can build upon during the year,” Valdez said.  

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