For the past nine years, Elk Meadows second-graders have walked to Wight’s Fort Cemetery for a field trip that incorporates local history, science, writing, exercise and art.
This October about 130 second-graders walked one mile to and one mile back from the cemetery where they looked at different rocks, studied trees and took local history lessons to heart. They examined the headstones, took rubbings and learned about South Jordan’s historic cemetery on a scavenger hunt.
“This gives them an experience like none other with field trips,” second-grade teacher Liz Taylor said. “It’s really a neat experience, and it’s free. It also allows as many parents who want to come to help with the field trip.”
Taylor said she got the idea about 14 years ago after attending two summer classes. One was on visiting cemeteries and making history come alive, and a second one focused on rocks in the Salt Lake Valley. She decided to integrate the two classes, along with other second-grade state core curriculum, into her own field trip.
During the field trip, students study specific rocks such as marble, gray and red granite and red sandstone. After identifying the rocks on the headstones, they learn about stone cutters, such as Charles Lambert who cut stones for the Salt Lake Temple, and then, get to see and feel the effects of weathering on rocks on the headstones.
The students looked at the changing leaves and learned why they change as they heard about photosynthesis. They also incorporated art by taking leaf and headstone rubbings.
The second-graders also learned about their local history. A day or two before the field trip, Taylor shared with them the historic reasons for the settlement and cemetery in that location — the need for water, pioneer families and the children’s activities, the need for a cemetery and its development as well as how to be respectful in a cemetery.
The final activity at the cemetery was a scavenger hunt where the students looked for 11 things such as the “Faith in Every Footstep” plaque on the headstones of pioneers who arrived in the Salt Lake Valley between 1847 and 1869, a signed headstone made by the head stone cutter for the Salt Lake Temple. They also searched for the oldest know grave, newest grave, a wooden grave marker and a headstone with a short vowel and a long vowel sound.
Students wrote about each of the activities and kept all their papers and rubbings together in a homemade packet.
“I’ve had sixth-grade students write me, thanking me for this field trip. (It gives me a) happy heart,” Taylor said.