Fourth-graders going for a walk in our national park | VailDaily.com

Fourth-graders going for a walk in our national park

VAIL — For some fourth-graders at June Creek Elementary School, the annual overnight field trip to the Colorado National Monument can be a daunting experience away from home.

"It's a scary thing the first night," said Thomas van Cleave, a fourth-grade teacher at June Creek and a member of SOS Outreach. "By the third night, they're walking with confidence through the camp and they're not really happy about going home the next day."

The annual Parks-4-Kids program is celebrating 100 years of national parks, and SOS Outreach stepped in to help fund the four-day trip for June Creek students beginning Tuesday by creating a website for people and organizations to donate.

"It's kind of a push to get kiddos outside and into the parks," said Scott Partan, program manager for SOS Outreach. "It was a way to raise a little money to help them because it's their fourth-grade field trip that they traditionally do every year."

“By the third night, they’re walking with confidence through the camp and they’re not really happy about going home the next day.”Thomas van CleaveFourth-grade teacher, June Creek Elementary

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The field trip focuses on topics the students have been learning about in school, including ecosystems, Colorado animals and plants, geology, geography and even a little history with a special presentation from a Ute Indian storyteller.

'BIG EXPERIENCE'

For many of the students, camping isn't a family activity, so being away from home helps them gain confidence at a young age so that they can be independent and successful in nature.

"It's a big experience for them," van Cleave said. "It's just good to see them outside, whether it's on a climbing rope doing something they've never done before or hiking out on the trail or just being able to touch and interact with these things."

The scholarships SOS helps provide are critical in ensuring all interested students are able to join their classmates for the experience. The nonprofit has similar programs for other local schools, as well. For more information or to donate to the school's trip, visit http://parks4kids.info/campaign/detail/4468.

"It's a lot of work for the teachers," van Cleave said, "but once we're there, we really get to enjoy watching them open up to some great experiences."