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Fourth graders venture out on more field studies than students in any other grade—these young explorers leave the classroom 14 times each school year for in-state experiential learning. Middle and upper schoolers may travel farther, but no other grade goes on as many excursions.

Every fourth grader in Utah studies the state’s history. At Rowland Hall, educators have developed a Utah-themed curriculum that intertwines history, government, geology, conservation, and literature, and gives students the opportunity to become comprehensive experts on, and advocates for, their home terrain.

The students take so many trips, according to fourth-grade teacher Erika McCarthy, because everything is so accessible. “Within an hour, we can be at any field study,” Erika said. “We can be at the top of the mountain, or at the Great Salt Lake, and so it is right in our backyard.”

Plus, it helps children to experience what they’re learning. Instead of sticking only to a textbook, “we touch it, we taste it, we feel it,” she said. “It’s tangible.”

The science-related trips follow an intuitive path: how water drains from the mountains to the Great Salt Lake. Understanding watershed, Erika said, helps students understand how our mountains, canyons, and valleys formed. Fourth graders also learn about protecting and preserving their surroundings, and “why water is so precious in the state of Utah.”

“The students certainly understand that by the end of the year,” Erika said. “Everything ties in with the water.”

Here’s a list of fourth-grade field studies, and what the students do on each trip:
 
  • Red Butte Creek (three trips): make observations about the creek, talk about where the water comes from and where it’s going, and learn to collect/record data

  • Ensign Peak: study the rock of the areaconglomerateand make observations about the valley and mountains in our watershed

  • Little Cottonwood Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon (two trips): learn about weathering, erosion, and the different types of rocks

  • Timpanogos Cave National Monument: study weathering, erosion, limestone caves, and cave formations

  • Salt Lake Cemetery: differentiate the rocks used for headstones

  • Natural History Museum of Utah: review Utah's landforms and collect information on the Great Salt Lake and the five American Indian tribes of Utah

  • Parley’s Water Treatment Plant: learn what it takes to collect the water from our mountains, and provide clean drinking water for the public

  • Utah State Capitol: learn about Utah statehood and making laws in Utah

  • This is the Place Heritage Park: learn about how pioneers first trekked to Utah and settled in Salt Lake City in 1847, and the schooling and blacksmithing of that era

  • Antelope Island State Park: study brine shrimp and our watershed

  • Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve: learn about the wetlands, where freshwater and saltwater meet

Since Erika began teaching at Rowland Hall in 2007, she and her colleagues have added one variable trip to the list: snowshoeing in the winter. “We hope to be able to go snowshoeing every year,” she said. “And there’s where we’re learning about the water content, how much snow we need—besides playing in the snow—in order to have a good spring and summer.”

Even if snowshoeing isn’t in the cards, the diverse, engaging trip roster turns our fourth graders into local adventurers, and gives them plenty to look forward to.

Experiential Learning

Field Studies Fortify Fourth Graders' Utah Expertise

Fourth graders venture out on more field studies than students in any other grade—these young explorers leave the classroom 14 times each school year for in-state experiential learning. Middle and upper schoolers may travel farther, but no other grade goes on as many excursions.

Every fourth grader in Utah studies the state’s history. At Rowland Hall, educators have developed a Utah-themed curriculum that intertwines history, government, geology, conservation, and literature, and gives students the opportunity to become comprehensive experts on, and advocates for, their home terrain.

The students take so many trips, according to fourth-grade teacher Erika McCarthy, because everything is so accessible. “Within an hour, we can be at any field study,” Erika said. “We can be at the top of the mountain, or at the Great Salt Lake, and so it is right in our backyard.”

Plus, it helps children to experience what they’re learning. Instead of sticking only to a textbook, “we touch it, we taste it, we feel it,” she said. “It’s tangible.”

The science-related trips follow an intuitive path: how water drains from the mountains to the Great Salt Lake. Understanding watershed, Erika said, helps students understand how our mountains, canyons, and valleys formed. Fourth graders also learn about protecting and preserving their surroundings, and “why water is so precious in the state of Utah.”

“The students certainly understand that by the end of the year,” Erika said. “Everything ties in with the water.”

Here’s a list of fourth-grade field studies, and what the students do on each trip:
 
  • Red Butte Creek (three trips): make observations about the creek, talk about where the water comes from and where it’s going, and learn to collect/record data

  • Ensign Peak: study the rock of the areaconglomerateand make observations about the valley and mountains in our watershed

  • Little Cottonwood Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon (two trips): learn about weathering, erosion, and the different types of rocks

  • Timpanogos Cave National Monument: study weathering, erosion, limestone caves, and cave formations

  • Salt Lake Cemetery: differentiate the rocks used for headstones

  • Natural History Museum of Utah: review Utah's landforms and collect information on the Great Salt Lake and the five American Indian tribes of Utah

  • Parley’s Water Treatment Plant: learn what it takes to collect the water from our mountains, and provide clean drinking water for the public

  • Utah State Capitol: learn about Utah statehood and making laws in Utah

  • This is the Place Heritage Park: learn about how pioneers first trekked to Utah and settled in Salt Lake City in 1847, and the schooling and blacksmithing of that era

  • Antelope Island State Park: study brine shrimp and our watershed

  • Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve: learn about the wetlands, where freshwater and saltwater meet

Since Erika began teaching at Rowland Hall in 2007, she and her colleagues have added one variable trip to the list: snowshoeing in the winter. “We hope to be able to go snowshoeing every year,” she said. “And there’s where we’re learning about the water content, how much snow we need—besides playing in the snow—in order to have a good spring and summer.”

Even if snowshoeing isn’t in the cards, the diverse, engaging trip roster turns our fourth graders into local adventurers, and gives them plenty to look forward to.

Experiential Learning

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