The study of Grand Canyon geology and ecology culminated in a raft trip between Glen Canyon Dam and Lee's Ferry for 90 Rim Country Middle School seventh-graders.
"I find that field trips are the best way for kids to learn because the student are there," seventh-grade science teacher and trip coordinator Scott Davidson said. "I can talk about the Grand Canyon all day long but until you go and see it you don't really understand its importance."
Science students studied geology last fall and ecology in the spring. They had almost a full school year to anticipate the field trip, which acted as an incentive to keep grades up.
What they learned in the classroom and what they say for themselves on the raft trip were the many layers of rock that make up the walls of the Grand Canyon --sandstone, limestone and shale.
The layers might be 200 million to 2 billion years old, depending upon where one is in the canyon.
"The bottom level isn't always the oldest," said student Amber Bucanek. "We learned in class that where shale is, a swamp used to be."
As they rafted down the Colorado, river guides pointed out rock formations on the sides of canyon.
There was Monk Rock (that looked like a man praying) and a flat rock with a handle, "refrigerator rock," said student Rebecca Knauer.
Student Lena Bishop was impressed with the steep flat sides of the canyon the Colorado had carved.
"I was surprised that the river was so thin," she said.
"The rock formations were cool," said student Zach Blazer.
But it was the swimming that he, like many of his classmates, enjoyed as part of the four-hour raft adventure.
The first swimming hole had a small shoreline.
"The water was 56 degrees," said student Madison Berg. "There was lots of algae and the bottom was sandy."
The second swimming hole had a larger shoreline.
"We walked back into the canyon a little ways and saw petroglyphs," Berg said.
By the third and final swimming hole, she said, students talked more and swam less.
"The water was like an ice cube," said student John Leonard.
Before he went on the trip he said he and his classmates learned that when "humans change one part of an eco system they change other things. When the Glen Canyon Dam took the Colorado River water it made it cold."
But not cold enough to keep local mallard ducks out of the water.
"I saw cranes and a hawk's nest," Bishop said.
For many students, this was their first trip to the Grand Canyon.
"Just the thought that I'm in something so big it seemed like you could fit stars into it was so amazing," Leonard said.