Expedition Yellowstone: Joliet Fifth Graders Explore the Park

Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Thursday, March 7, 2019
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The ice cave: Sidney Frank, Carson Masser, Kensington Golden, Reuben Miller, Blaire Bazaldua, Allison Evertz (superintendent Joliet schools) and Ranger Trudy

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Braysen Dimond helped cook up meals.

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Photos by Lee Stevenson
The whole group of Joliet fifth graders poses while on the Expedition Yellowstone trip.

Classes of the Joliet fifth grade headed to Yellowstone National Park (YNP) just before Thanksgiving break. The field trip started on Nov. 16 and the students stayed overnight until Nov. 19. It was called Expedition Yellowstone and is part of a program that YNP offers to students. Lee Stevenson served as volunteer coordinator for the trip.

According to YNP’s website, the week is designed for students grades 4-8 and is offered by the National Park Service. The program provides an opportunity to “Explore the geology, ecology, and human history of Yellowstone with National Park Service rangers. This curriculum-based, residential school program teaches students about the natural and cultural history of Yellowstone while promoting stewardship and preservation in the park and in home communities. Students, teachers, and parent chaperones participate in active, interdisciplinary, learning experiences during the day, such as hikes, field investigations, discussions, creative dramatics, and journal writing. Evening classroom activities enhance the daytime lessons and allow students to investigate current issues affecting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.”

Stevenson said the experience “was an amazing hands on educational experience for students and teachers.”

“We sold pie, cookie dough and other items to raise money to pay for our trip. I just want to say thank you to my community and my family,” said Student Leela Ivey.

Student Aubrey Blair explained that the trip was not simply given to them; it had to be earned. “The fifth grade classes went to Yellowstone. But before they could go they had to do a fundraiser. They sold pies and cookie dough. A lot of people bought pies and cookie dough, which helped the fifth grade. Once they got to Yellowstone, they met the rangers and ate dinner at the YCC Center. Then, they had their first class where they learned about the history of Yellowstone. After that, they went to bed. The next morning they had another class after breakfast. At that class, they played clan feud and learned about geology. Next, they went for a hike. At that hike, they talked and learned and learned more about geology. When they got back, they got ready for dinner and their afternoon classes. After both of those, they went to bed. The next morning, they had breakfast, class, and went for a hike as usual. They were reducing, reusing, and recycling because they used plastic water bottles, plastic cups, and dishes instead of using paper items. The learned a lot about recycling, ecology and geology. I liked the classes, the camp fire and the rangers best. Sunday was their first full day at Yellowstone. They did all the usual things like classes, hikes, and dinner. Then, on Monday, they talked about cleaning. My clan was on bathrooms. Once we were done cleaning, and loading the bus, we got on the bus and said goodbye to Yellowstone. At least it was fun!”

Students gave their own evaluations. Leela commented, “When I was at Yellowstone, I learned ecology and geology. We learned by playing games and songs and doing activities. We did a lot of hiking also. This is when we learned the songs and activities that helped us learn about Yellowstone and the animals. We saw lots of animals during the hikes too. I loved learning about ecology because I love learning about animals and how they live in their ecosystem.”

The experience was not all play; the students had work to do. “My class and I were at Yellowstone for four days and three nights. We had a lot of responsibilities; we made breakfast and dinner and then cleaned up after dinner and breakfast. Everyone had to make their own lunch for the day, too. On the last day that we were there we had to deep clean the campus. This included our dorms and bathrooms, the classroom and kitchen. We got it all done in about an hour. The rangers said that was really quick!”

They learned about recycling. Ivey explained, “We had the best rangers who taught us all that we learned. We recycled, reduced and reused. We reused the glass dishes and glasses. We reduced by using our water bottles over and over. We recycled plastic bags, cans and paper.”

Ivey concluded, “Overall, I had so much fun! Expedition Yellowstone was so much fun and educational. My friends and I will never forget this trip!”

Student Sidney Frank said, I want to thank the community, families and friends for supporting Expedition Yellowstone. Our adventure all began on Friday, Nov.19, when we got on a bus and drove to Yellowstone Park. That night the first clan cooked spaghetti and another clan cleaned. Every morning and night, one of the clans cooked while another clan cleaned up. We learned a lot of responsibility while we were there. Whenever we ate lunch, which we packed in the morning, we were out on a hike somewhere. We reused our lunch bags every day. We recycled everything we could to reduce the garbage. 

The trip impressed the students with a new appreciation for science. It was clear that they would remember this trip for a long time. Frank said, “In Yellowstone, we learned a lot about ecology and geology. Ecology is the way organisms interact with each other. Geology is Earth science. My favorite part of Yellowstone Expedition was having fun with my friends. It was a great opportunity for my classmates and me. I want to give a huge thank you to Mrs. Lee Stevenson, Mrs. Crystal Wright, Ms. Carol Sherman and all the chaperones and the bus driver for making this trip possible.”

Stevenson concluded, “Many thanks to the community for continued support!” She said it was “a unique opportunity for students to grow together as a class as well as personally.”    


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