This fall, the 5th and 6th graders embarked on a journey across the state to eastern Colorado to explore some of our national wonders. Our first stop was the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, where students spent the evening exploring the edge of the south rim. Students learned about the geology and history of the area known as “the land that God forgot.” At the edge of the rim, students sketched The Painted Wall as the sun began to set before returning to camp at the East Portal campground down in the canyon by the Gunnison River.
The following day, we traveled east toward the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Students were exposed to the diverse landscape of juniper, conifer, and aspen amongst the tallest sand dunes in North America. Before our trip, we prepared to perform friction tests with a variety of sled-like materials ranging from souped-up snowboards and saucer sleds to metal cookie pans. After a series of runs, students calculated the averages of their distance, time, and speed to determine the top three vehicles that caused the least amount of friction.
Just outside of the Great Sand Dunes is a unique local treasure called the Colorado Gator and Reptile Park. Students learned about the geothermal ponds that sustain these animals in the middle of Colorado. The park is a sanctuary for reptiles, exotic pets, and alligators who needed a home. Students enjoyed feeding tortoises, running with emus, and viewing some of the largest alligators west of the Mississippi on their visit. Afterwards, we visited a nearby glacial waterfall called Zapata Falls. The day was wrapped up with a stargazing activity on our last night at the sand dunes.
Students learned to work together as a group to travel the distances of our vast state of Colorado. As scientists, they implemented their best hypothesis on friction and tested their ideas in a fun and engaging race down a pile of sand in the middle of Colorado. From the deep and dark Black Canyon to the geothermal gator ponds of Alamosa, students learned the variety of unique and special places in our great state.
~ Jacqui McCormick
5th & 6th Grade Teacher