Swaner’s field trips offer kids a new perspective of wildlife
May 1, 2015
Time is running out to schedule a field trip at the Swaner EcoCenter and Preserve.
The nonprofit hosts winter and spring field trips for schools and youth organizations that end when its summer camps begin in June, said Katherine Veeder, education director for the Swaner EcoCenter.
"Our field trips target students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade and we have curriculum that is specific for grade that is developed around the core standards enforced by the state," Veeder told The Park Record. "The topics we cover on these field trips are covered in the classrooms as well, but the ultimate goal is that the kids have a takeaway understanding of the subjects they learn about.
"For example, the fourth graders are studying the three main wildlife habitats, which are forest, wetlands and deserts," she said. "We focus on wetlands because the Swaner Preserve is a wetland. So the kids get to come and investigate the soil and see what types of animals live here."
The field trips typically run for two hours, unless the teachers or leaders need to shorten them for any reason.
"The kids will spend most of that block out on the preserve, getting up-close and personal with nature," Veeder said.
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These outings are offered to any school or youth group in Utah, she said.
"We do offer field trips outside of the kindergarten to fifth grades and these are considered private field trips and we do ask those groups to call in advance and talk about what they would like to do and what types of things they would like to see," Veeder explained. "Typically we see many from Summit County — Park City School District and South and North Summit School Districts but we will occasionally host some from Wasatch County and the Wasatch Front."
Also, thanks to a generous donation from Vail through its Epic Promise program, the Swaner EcoCenter has been able to provide free field trips to any fourth grader enrolled in a Summit County public school.
"Like all of our programs at the EcoCenter, these field trips are designed to foster that sense of responsibility and belonging in the natural world," Veeder said. "When these kids have first-hand experiences, they learn to value and appreciate nature. That’s important, because they can see the bigger picture and see how their role affects what’s going on in their community and in the environment as well."
Other groups that can schedule field trips include Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
"We can facilitate a maximum of 50 students per time, although we can, at times, accommodate 60 students, which is three classes of 20," Veeder said. "We usually try to have a ratio of 20 kids or less with one facilitator during the trips. We usually do three rotations with one facilitator for each field trip."
The biggest highlight for the Swaner EcoCenter staff is seeing the students make hands-on connections that complement the lessons they learn in their classrooms.
"It’s also great to see how enthusiastic they are about being out in the natural world," Veeder said. "We have a quote board in one of our education offices that lists all the awesome things the kids say as they observe nature."
One of the quotes came from an outing led by Brittany Ingalls, the EcoCenter’s conservation coordinator, Veeder said.
"She was leading the snowshoe portion of a field trip and one boy who was coming back with her saw some of his classmates and said, ‘You guys are in for a treat. It was epically epic,’" Veeder said with smile. "Another time I asked a group if they knew what a macro invertebrate was and one boy said, ‘It’s an animal that doesn’t have a spine that eats macaroni and cheese.’
"It’s so fun to see how creative these kids can be when they are outside," she said. "You see their personalities and see how these experiences help build their self-confidence through the learning."
Many of the students who have participated in these field trips will return with their families or join our summer camps.
"They are so excited to share what they have learned," Veeder said.
Still, the field trips offer activities that aren’t offered during the EcoCenter’s regular business hours.
"These are things that give the field trips a sense of uniqueness and makes those experiences special for the children," Veeder said. "One example is sampling bugs and the kids get to use a dichotomous key to identify these bugs. We also like to tell them that they can get muddy and dirty during a field trip. We like to tell them that they are the scientists now."
The Swaner EcoCenter will stop booking field trips on June 12, but until then, Veeder hopes more groups will take advantage of the preserve.
"They can call me and I will get them all scheduled," she said.
The Swaner EcoCenter and Preserve, 1258 Center Dr. at Kimball Junction, will continue to book youth field trips until June 12. To schedule an outing, call Katherine Veeder at 435-649-1767. The cost is $2 per child. Field trips must be booked two weeks in advance. For more information, visit http://www.swanerecocenter.org.