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The City Journals

Students experience a wild and windy month of review

May 18, 2017 11:04AM ● By Jet Burnham

Mountain Man Scott Sorensen tests fourth-graders on their knowledge of Utah trappers and traders. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

It was a wild and windy month of review when a mountain man and a TV meteorologist joined students at Arcadia Elementary to review for their year-end testing.

“Our science and social studies curriculum allows us to use hands-on projects, technology, field trips and in-school assemblies to keep it interesting,” said fourth-grade teacher Kathy Hommes, who arranged to have the guests visit. “We are preparing for our year-end assessments, and we will be using all of these resources to review and prepare.”

Mountain Man Scott “Grizzly” Sorensen refreshed lessons from the social studies curriculum for fourth-grade students as he shared the details of the lives of mountain men.

Sorensen brought stacks of animal furs and challenged students to identify the hides. Students answered Sorensen’s questions about famous trappers with confidence even though that social studies unit was taught at the beginning of the year, said fourth-grade teacher Kellie Janes.

The fourth-graders were not taken in by Sorensen’s wild stories; they spotted his yarn about a deer riding a bike as a tall tale. Some classes wrote their own tall tales. Students in Janes’ class wrote papers contrasting modern living with that of mountain men.

Students were impressed with Sorensen’s animal calls and were thrilled when he set off a beaver trap and fired a rifle.

Teachers and volunteers provided hands-on activities for students to experience the life of early Utah settlers. They took turns churning butter (which took three hours), square dancing in the gym and stamping leather keychains with metal tools and a mallet.

Students also sewed their own possibility bags, small pouches slung over one shoulder to keep bullets and gunpowder easily accessible to a mountain man.

As a fun way to review units on extreme weather and the water cycle, students watched episodes of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” and played cloud identification games as a class.

Meteorologist Sterling Poulson from KUTV brought his mobile weather lab to the school to show how his understanding of the water cycle and geography enables him to forecast weather patterns. He told the students he has been tracking weather daily for 20 years.

“If you want to do something and do it well, you need to learn about it,” he told students. “Go to school, learn more about it, and then, after you get out of school, learn more.”

Poulson reviewed the process of the water cycle with students playing the role of air and water molecules. He then performed science experiments to help them understand air pressure.

Teachers prepared games to review other subjects that will be covered in April’s SAGE testing. To review their science unit on animal classification, students took part in an animal scavenger hunt, matching characteristics to animal families.

Dr. Celia Jabakumar, principal at Arcadia, encourages teachers to utilize field trips and guest speakers to supplement their teaching, squeezing in enrichment activities as often as they can.

“It makes for a well-rounded experience for these kids,” said Jabakumar. “There’s more to elementary school than the sit-down-and-learn-stuff.” She wants them to realize there’s a purpose to it.

Various field trips have been used to reinforce lessons from the Utah-focused curriculum for fourth-graders. They visited Murray Nature Center to study Utah wetlands. At the Museum of Natural History, they attended a class about rocks and minerals found in Utah. The Museum on the Move brought their fossil samples for a hands-on review with the students. A trip to the Living Planet Aquarium was planned to review the water cycle in a real-life application.

Before the end of the year, Hommes said they plan to take part in an activity sponsored by the Water Conservation Association. Getting a glimpse into the past at the Taylorsville Bennion Heritage Center is another field trip teachers have scheduled. 

Jabakumar’s goal is to help the students understand that what they are learning in elementary school relates to their future. She hopes they appreciate the opportunities the teachers are able to provide.

“Hopefully they walk out of here saying, ‘oh, there’s method to this madness. They want us to get somewhere in life,’” she said.