Waukee CSD 5th Graders Take a Walk Through Time

This fall, every 5th grader in the Waukee Community School District (CSD) took a Walk Through Time at the Kuehn Conservation Area near Earlham.

Experiencing the Field Trip to Kuehn Conservation Area

“The trip connects to our social studies unit about Indigenous Cultures,” says Lauren Crawford, a 5th-grade teacher at Grant Ragan Elementary. “The focus is getting the students hands-on experience with artifacts and learning the culture through stories.”

The annual field trip is a collaboration with Dallas County Conservation. And it’s nothing new. 5th graders have been taking this trip for more than two decades. Each class spends an entire day at the conservation area, where they enjoy hiking, nature, and learning about the history of the land and the Indigenous People who lived there.

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“When our Dallas County naturalist showed us artifacts, some of my students said, ‘Oh, that’s one of the artifacts I studied last week on flashcards!’ This trip brings everything we’ve been talking about in the classroom to life,” Crawford says.

Getting Hands-On Experience with Artifacts

Not only did the students get to see and touch some of the artifacts, but they also got to experience what it would have been like to use them.

“One of my favorite parts was throwing spears. I thought it was fun and cool,” 5th grader Ben Bechtum says.

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“My favorite thing was probably making the smoke. We had lots of tools, and we made this stick really hot,” says Karson Herston, a 5th-grade student.

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Crawford says students liked trying to start a fire, but it wasn’t easy. The students had to team up and work together, and only a few groups got a little smoke from their efforts.

Letting Kids Play in Nature

In addition to learning about Indigenous Americans, the field trip is a chance for kids to get outside for exercise and a chance to play in nature.

“I would rank this field trip as a 9 out of 10. I really liked it. My favorite part was hiking and playing in the dried-up creek. That was really fun,” 5th grader Johanna Simanovich recalls.

“After lunch, we went on this big hike where we tried to beat our guide. When we walked up a very steep hill, it was kind of hard because I kept sprinting, and I got tired. I did beat him at the end, but it was close!” says Journey Thomas, a 5th-grade student.

“We saw a woodpecker and daddy longlegs. One of my classmates put the spider in her hands and played with it. We also saw lots of other birds, including a vulture!” Herston adds.

Finding a Moment of Calm

Their Dallas County Conservation naturalist guide also helped the class find a moment of calm.

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“He had us lie down in the grass for about five minutes to just listen and be. Afterward, we came back together and shared what we noticed. Some students talked about hearing a bee, others identified an acorn falling from a tree, and some said they heard the wind. That was a neat moment,” Crawford explains.

All 5th graders in the District made the trip to the conservation area during the fall season.

“In their younger years of elementary school, they didn’t get to go anywhere because of COVID. ‘What field trips do we get to go on?’ is one of the primary questions I get during the first week of school,” Crawford says. “It’s really important to provide those opportunities so students can get their hands on the things we are learning about in the academic areas of our lessons.”

Look for this story in the latest issue of MyWaukee magazine.