Students learn about nature | ParkRecord.com

Students learn about nature

Megan Yeiter , The Park Record

Volunteering for the Utah Department of Natural Recourses forestry fire division as a firefighter during the summer and as a winter intern at the Swaner EcoCenter and Nature Preserve, Andrew Giunta spent a lot of time outside last year. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in natural resources from the University of Vermont in 2006, Giunta said he was looking for opportunities in the field when he applied for a position as Swaner’s Education Assistant. Giunta started at Swaner in mid-November and has been developing new curriculum for their educational field trips.

"I was looking to do more land-conservation projects and get more experience in something I could use down the road," he said. "A change in direction for a career path and something involving less traveling that would keep me local here. This is a chance to work for an organization that I really enjoyed."

Swaner will expand its field trip opportunities by offering programs for kindergarten through eighth-graders, along with Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and youth groups.

"Last year, we only offered field trips in February for fourth and fifth-graders," he said. "We will be offering field trips to Summit, Wasatch and Salt Lake and other private schools, and we expanded it to include other groups outside the schools."

According to Giunta, his new responsibilities emulate some of his intern duties last year, including visiting local schools to promote the programs, leading snowshoe tours on the Preserve and organizing volunteers for activities stations.

"It’s a great opportunity for local schools and groups to take advantage of these programs. The challenge so far has been that transition of working indoors and building a program from scratch and creating a new curriculum for a larger audience," he said.

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The education programs offered this winter are categorized by age, starting with kindergarten through 2nd-grade, according to Giunta, who said the students will learn about how animals, such as moose, fox, snowshoe hares and short-tail weasels, adapt to winter conditions.

Students will learn about the local winter animals that they might see on the Preserve along with identifying the animal tracks, Giunta said.

Third- through fifth-graders will learn about tracking animals by examining their footprints in the snow, Giunta said, adding that students will also learn about the insulating properties of snow.

"We talk about the winter water cycle and instead of rain we talk about snow," he said. "We’ll discuss how snow forms in the atmosphere and focus on the progression of condensation and evaporation of snow through different experiments."

Giunta said students in grades 6 through 8 will have a snow-science lesson and will learn about the Park City snow pack, including the density of the snow and its layers.

"We’ll teach students about the different types of snow crystals that we get. Sometimes there is more moisture so it forms different crystals than when we get a snow storm and we might have less moisture," Giunta said.

Swaner field trips will cost $2 per student and $2 for each chaperone. An application process and fee waiver will be offered to Title No. 1 schools with limited funding. Field trips will be offered mid-January through early March depending on snow conditions. For more information contact Andrew Giunta at (435) 252-3583 or andrew.giunta@usu.edu .

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