Craig It was a dream vacation for local fifth-graders.
It was a science lesson for Deb Frazier.
Deb Frazier, Craig Intermediate School literacy specialist, and about 180 CIS fifth-graders traveled to Yampa River State Park for a field trip designed to teach wildlife biology and conservation. Frazier, who retires at the end of the school year, instituted the tradition at least 12 years ago.
"It's just a wonderful way to teach science, because they are actually out there experiencing it," she said. "It's not secondhand information."
Two trips are necessary to get all eight sections of fifth grade to the park.
Once they get there, though, they have access to plants, water, wildlife and specialists who can teach them about the natural world.
"It helps them get a sense of place and have a real sense of what the environment and habitats (are) all about," Frazier said.
Lessons ranged from aquatic wildlife and wild birds, to interdependency and predator-and-prey relationships. Evening sessions featured a workshop on survival skills taught by local mountain man Howdy Davis.
Conservation also played a role in the curriculum.
"We really emphasize taking good care of your environment," Frazier said.
The experience was intended to teach who the great outdoors really belongs to.
"We are guests here, and the wildlife are the residents, including ants - from the smallest creature to the largest one," Frazier said. "As (students) grow up, they have a sense of value about their place and environment."
Representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, Yampa River State Park rangers and Yampatika pitched in to aid CIS teachers.
Yampatika is a Steamboat Springs-based organization focused on promoting environmental preservation through education.
Parents also helped out, chaperoning students throughout the week.
"It's a team effort that couldn't be done unless we had everybody supporting it," Frazier said.
Students found time between lessons to enjoy the outdoor setting. Stargazing and swimming also made up part of the students' itinerary.
But, here's the catch: There were lessons to be learned, even in free time.
Frogs, minnows and crawdads were a few of the species fifth-graders Carina Olivera and Kortney Gilbert saw during a dip in the river earlier this week.
They needed little prompting to rattle off tidbits they'd learned throughout the week.
Carina discovered how snakes have different layers of skin, and Kortney learned how a bird's beak is adapted to the food it eats.
Their eyes lit as they spoke, and their expressions were lively.
Obviously, this wasn't just another science lesson for these students.
It also was a fun vacation.