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Grand Canyon Experience Enriches Learning

In the photo: Kneeling is Zack Baer. Standing, from left to right: Doug Kessler, Leah Crosley, Elizabeth Williams, and Lois Kate Smith.
6/7/2010 —

DuBois - Seven Penn State DuBois honors students journeyed to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park in May for an enrichment activity to learn more about geology, plants and animals of the Colorado Plateau.

Led by English Professor James May, Honors Program Coordinator, the group included Alexander Angstadt, of Clearfield; Zachary Baer, of Avonmore; Leah Crosley, of Brockport; Douglas Kessler , of DuBois; Owen Samuels, of Penfield; Lois Kate Smith, of Media; and Elizabeth Williams, of Lock Haven.

The group flew nonstop from Cleveland to Las Vegas and then drove a van to Zion National Park in Utah. After hiking in Zion, the group circled the canyon clockwise, and stayed several nights on the southern rim at Canyon Village. Then the group drove to Las Vegas via the Hoover Dam, where now, May said, "stunningly high" bridges span the gorge.

At the Grand Canyon, the students heard talks on the condors and the geology of the canyon. As a warm up, they hiked the Grandview Trail and the spent the next day hiking trails near the Bright Angel Lodge. 

Freshman Alex Angstadt and Professor May completed a 19 mile hike down the South Kaibab trail across the Colorado River, and then back up the Bright Angel trail.

"The group was fortunate to enjoy dry and cool weather during their hikes," May said. "On a typical day in May, the temperatures range from below freezing at night on the rim to well over a hundred degrees nearly a mile below in the canyon, but temperatures only reached the mid 80's during the group’s 2010 hike."           

On the trail the group encountered a big horn sheep, perched on the rocks a foot off of the trail, and saw the California condor soar, sometimes close enough to see the golden or mustard diamond on its chest.                                                                       

"Though five million tourists come to the Grand Canyon annually, few descend to the inner gorge, where the cold Colorado River cuts through shiny black schist and pink granite," May said.

Everyone praised how remarkably clean and well-managed Zion and especially the Grand Canyon were. They were proud that the parks created a favorable impression to the millions of foreigners who visit the parks annually, May said.

"Traveling to and in the Grand Canyon area builds a lot of camaraderie between the students," May said. "And few of our students have seen the desert southwest and know how grand, colorful, and beautiful that region is.  Also, a hiking vacation to the Colorado Plateau is well suited to our campus with its Wildlife Technology and Geo-Science programs."

Due to the Honors program’s funding from Penn State, the trip only cost each student $200, plus their meals.

The students who take courses for honors credit are usually offered a spring trip as an enrichment activity and reward for their academic efforts during the school year.  

To learn more about honors courses and activities at Penn State DuBois, contact Deborah Gill at 814-375-4783.

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