Curriculum for a desert classroom

  Nearly a decade ago, Christine Beekman of the National Park Service stepped outside of the visitor center classroom and into the desert of southeast Utah, leading a boisterous third-grade class into a maze of sandstone formations. She organized a game designed to teach the students about predator-prey relations in ecosystems, dividing the kids into groups of bobcats and mice, designating safe areas for the prey, and setting them loose upon each other.


"Amidst all this chaos," she recalls, "one of the third-graders shouted, 'Oh, this is so much fun! And we're learning, too!' " Now, this field trip and 17 others appear in a new, free teacher's guide, Red Rock Adventures, designed by Canyon Country Outdoor Education, and funded by the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation and Exxon International.


The trips in the guide are for grades 1-6, and include pre- and post-trip activities, such as imaginary river trips for first-graders and classroom geology studies for fifth-graders that reinforce trip topics. The 289-page guide also meets the National Science Education Content Standards.


The guide uses habitats in southeast Utah for the field trips and activities. Beekman hopes it will inspire teachers everywhere to blend science and outdoor education.


For more information, contact the Park Service at 435/719-2206, or download the complete guide at www.nps.gov/seug/ccoe.