Steamboat Springs Classrooms and textbooks will be traded in for log cabins and reflection journals as area sixth graders head for a four-day science school at Steamboat Lake this week.
More than 210 students, all sixth graders in Hayden and Steamboat Springs middle schools and Lowell-Whiteman Primary School, will get a chance to experience their natural environment hands-on at the Yampa Valley Science School throughout September.
In its third year, the science school, which is sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, opened its doors to all of the schools' sixth graders, an increase of 100 students from last year. It also extended the students' stay from three to four days.
Steamboat Springs' math and science teacher Winston Walker said it is a great opportunity for all his sixth graders.
"It's not only so much fun but you learn a whole lot," Walker said. "For four days, they are just not hearing us talk about it but it's hands-on training."
The school, which includes overnight lodging and food, costs $110 per students. Program coordinator Avrom Feinberg said scholarships are available to those students who could not afford the trip.
Hayden schools gave $10 to each student to lower the cost of trip to $100.
The four-day school allows the students to explore more than just the natural environment.
This year's science school includes journal writing, arts and crafts, games, campfires and skits.
"From my experience, three days wasn't enough down time for writing and reflections," Walker said. "Going to a full week I think will be great."
To prepare for the week, Winston had a slide show for his sixth-graders during Thursday's middle school open house.
"It's something different for sure," Steamboat Springs sixth grader Molly Weiss said.
"It's hands-on stuff. Not a grown up showing you what to do. You get to do all the stuff they are [doing].
This year's science school has units on a bear's life, insects, soil content, and area water sheds.
Because of the added days, Feinberg said the students will be able to do a community service on Friday.
Students will be picking up trash, pulling weeds and collecting native plants and seeds.
"It's a big difference from a museum," Kyle Steitz, a sixth grader from Walker's class said, comparing the week to his other school field trips.
Feinberg said the school targets sixth graders because they are old enough to understand the environment's relationship with living organisms and still young enough to be excited to learn.
"It's before they're preteens. They don't have many distractions," Feinberg said. They're less individualistic, egotistical and less self-focused.
The sixth graders also will interact with youth leaders from Hayden and Steamboat Springs High School and 18- to 25 year-olds from the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.
Feinberg said putting on the science school, which will divide the students into weeks running between Sept. 10 to Sept. 28, is a year-long process.
In the spring, the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and area teachers meet to come up with a curriculum that is based on content standards with goals.
At the end of the week, the students are graded on their journals and final projects. The science school's eventual goal is to include all the sixth graders along the Yampa Valley but Feinberg said the biggest challenge will be finding a place to house them.
"As it grows, we dream of having every sixth grader along the Yampa Valley South Routt, Craig, Dinosaur, North Routt Charter school but that is a lot of people to put up," he said.
Since the science school began in the Spring of 2000, it has moved three times to accommodate its numbers.
Last year, the school housed 96 students at the Euzoa Bible Camp in Strawberry Park. The year before, in its pilot program, the school was held near Columbine.
Feinberg is still looking for volunteers to help with this year's science school.
He said volunteers would be involved in food preparation, recreational activities and arts and crafts.
"It makes it easier on the staff," he said. "It's an intense four days."
Contribution for the science school are also helpful, he said.
The donations would allow more students who could not afford the science school to attend without burdening the school districts.
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