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Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014

Students bike to collect butterflies in a hands-on learning technique

By Miranda Collette, Deseret News

Published: Tue, Aug. 26 5:00 p.m. MDT

 Salt Lake Center for Science Education student Calvin Roeca looks over milkweed after finding monarch butterfly eggs in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. The students are studying the life cycle of monarch butterflies through their outdoor exploration skills class.

Salt Lake Center for Science Education student Calvin Roeca looks over milkweed after finding monarch butterfly eggs in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. The students are studying the life cycle of monarch butterflies through their outdoor exploration skills class.

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Summer has not ended for eighth-graders at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education who will be learning about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly in a unique way.

Students hopped on bikes and rode a mile down the road Tuesday to collect monarch butterfly eggs to observe their transformation up close and personal.

"It’s pretty fun. Most other kids have to sit and do classwork, so we at least get to go out and do something interactive," said Joseph Toledo, a student in the class.

The charter school was established in 2008 through a partnership between the Salt Lake City School District and University of Utah to offer kids the opportunity to learn through hands-on experiences.

After a $100,000 grant from Zions Bank, the school established a bike shop and purchased bicycles.

"It has everything," Principal Larry Madden said. "It’s like any other high school except 10 times cooler because it’s hands-on.

"Rather than tell kids about science or say, 'Hey, read this chapter and answer the questions,' we’ll let them get in and muck around and actually let them do it," he said.

The school enrolls 400 students between sixth and 12th grades. It gives kids the opportunity to learn about science, math, English and history, as well as kayaking, biking, camping and even archery.

"We always try to explain to kids how everything matters. … As much as possible, we want them to be involved in these real-life experiences that are integrated into learning," Madden said.

The hands-on teaching technique has helped those in the outdoor explorations skills class understand the curriculum more easily, students said.

"It’s better than just reading a textbook and doing packets. It's more fun being able to get to do stuff," student Sophia Wrathall said.

Cavett Eaton, instructor for the outdoor explorations class, said he has also seen a difference in his students' desire to learn.

"This is the coolest class ever," Eaton said. "They get a lot of chances to be outside."

"We’re lucky. The fact that we have bikes and can transport them quick and easy — we go up and down the Jordan River all year long," he said.

Todd Stout, owner of Rasing Butterflies in Salt Lake City, met Eaton's students to offer some expertise on the life cycle of the butterfly.

According to Stout, this opportunity is not only worthwhile for the students but for the butterflies, whose numbers have declined over the past several years.

"The class will help raise awareness about the life cycle of butterflies. I think it’s very helpful for people to understand what types of butterflies are here in Utah," he said.

Email: mcollette@deseretnews.com

Twitter: MirandaCollette

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