The Coastal Post - May 2000

Bolinas-Stinson Sixth Graders Off To Find Bones


Yet again, our Bolinas-Stinson 6th grade class will "pack it up" and head to the San Rafael Swell in Utah. The site was chosen for this trip five years ago for its incomparable rock formations, deposited during the Mesozoic Era, the age of dinosaurs. The kids will camp for a week on the banks of the San Rafael River. Their time will be spent primarily in the field, mostly on foot, prospecting uneven terrain and rock formations.

The objective: to study fossils and geology. Why go to Utah? Well, to quote some of this year's 6th graders:

Lucas Guilkey

"Because you can't learn everything just sitting in a classroom. You need to go out and explore the world. You don't want to learn about dinosaurs on a chalkboard, you want to find a dinosaur fossil! Utah is one of the best places to learn about the evolution of the Earth."

Eliza Washington

"I think our class is going to Utah for the experience, not just to see slides and read books, but actually hold a trilobite and see what bones look like when first found."

Sergio Brady

"We need to learn how this world works and how mountains are formed, and a lot of stuff like that. You may think we could do that in our class, but Don takes us to the place he's teaching about and I understand it a lot better."

Pete Van Overbeek

"We are going to Utah to learn history, actually very old history. The Earth is 4.5 billion years old and a cliff with layers on it could tell the whole story of evolution. You can't find layers here."

Aria Sternick

"So we can not only learn the stuff, but so we can see it, while we learn it. And so we can find fossils."

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"These kids know what they're doing," says Don Jolley, the Bolinas-Stinson 6th grade teacher, who is the inspiration and founder of this enriched learning experience.

The kids use terms such as evolution, plates subducting and colliding, plate tectonics, trilobites, brachiopods, oceanic and continental, bio-mechanics and skeletal structure as everyday words. They are all very involved with the textbook The Evolution Book and refer to it and their notebooks constantly. They know this is the important information they will need to prepare for the long-awaited, upcoming trip to the San Rafael Swell.

Sarah Bruce was part of the first class to go to Utah in 1996. "Don Jolley gives the students a chance to show that they're not just kids, but that they are capable of completing mind-boggling tasks, such as putting together whale skeletons or mapping geological formations." Sarah remembers, "We were 11 and 12 years old and we were digging for dinosaur fossils, and being recognized for it!"

Tamara Boyce was from the 3rd class (1998) that participated in the Utah experience says, "I will remember what I learned in Utah for the rest of my life because I was there digging in the dirt. Things I read in books I might only remember for a year or two."

Over the past four years, the Bolinas-Stinson Utah expedition has proven to the science community nationwide that 11 and 12 year olds can be, and are, valuable participants in a geological expedition, not just spectators.

This year, as a result of the reputation developed over the previous years of these exciting geological excursions, several yniversities and museums have solicited and/or contracted the Bolinas-Stinson sixth grade class to build a variety of specimens in the classroom. These institutions include UC Santa Cruz, Coyote Point Museum in San Mateo, and the International Wildlife Museum in Tucson, Arizona. The specimens include whales, porpoises, dolphins, a variety of other marine mammals and an Orca whale. Members of the sixth grade class will most likely accompany the completed skeletons to the university or museum. They will train the docents to assemble and give tours regarding the specimens.

"Raise the bar and the kids will learn to it," says Don Jolley. Throughout the country, our Bolinas-Stinson students have proven this. Following in the footsteps of four previous generations of sixth graders, the current sixth grade class can't wait to get out there and START DIGGING!!

As always, contributions and equipment are needed and welcome. Please send your tax-deductible contribution to:
Bolinas-Stinson Unified School District
Utah Trip 2000
Olema-Bolinas Road, Bolinas, CA, 94924

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For equipment donations please contact:
Don Jolley, Bolinas-Stinson School, 868-1603

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