Clear Creek, an educational tradition in Lehi elementary schools
In the early 70’s there was a movement to improve the recreational activities for the students in Alpine School District. In 1972 federal legislation was enacted referred to as “Title IX” which made gender equity in recreation mandatory. Thus, junior high and high schools had to evaluate, and equalize opportunities for both girls and boys.
Just prior to this time, two fifth- grade teachers, Iowa Hall and Herb Gilbert, teachers at Central Elementary in Pleasant Grove, saw value in having students participate in outdoor activities. About ninety students from their fifth- grade classes traveled to Tony Grove in Logan Canyon for a week camp. The curriculum was taught by professors from Utah State University. These camps were very successful. Dan Adams, who had been a student of Iowa Halls and was training to be a teacher, wanted to include this program in his own classroom. When Dan became a teacher at Lehi Elementary his goal was to duplicate the Central Elementary experience with his fifth-grade students. He, along with teaching colleague, Marlin Barnes, pressed District administrators to allow them to expand the Central Elementary School’s program. Permission was granted, and this outstanding opportunity became an integral part of the 5th grade curriculum for Lehi Elementary students.
For several years, Lehi Elementary fifth graders were bussed to American Fork Canyon for an overnight experience. After several years at Mutual Dell, the District used several sites in the Clear Creek area of Scofield. In 1972, a site owned by Mountain Fuel in the Clear Creek area was purchased by the District for $102,149. This site became the permanent location for what is now termed, “Clear Creek.” The acquisition of Clear Creek was referred to as “the most exciting innovation in education in the last decade.” (Provo Daily Herald, August 15, 1973.)
The popularity of the program spread across the district. Initially, a summer program only, it was determined to be part of the regular year’s activities. The curriculum was adjusted to be relevant to a fall, winter, and spring season. For many students, this is their first time away from home. Teachers have learned how to reassure homesick students that all will be well. Students bring sleeping bags and stay in cabins with other classmates and parent supervisors.
For almost fifty years, fifth grade students have been given the opportunity to participate in this two-day encampment to learn firsthand biology, ecology, geology. A curriculum was designed by District teachers using many concepts originally taught by USU professors. The lessons have been enhanced to engage all students in this unique educational experience. Some of the lessons students learn are: identifying plants, geological formations, history of mining and Spanish Fork Canyon, how to measure snowpack, and the study of constellations. There are stories told of flying hermits, the man with white wooly sox, and games like dodge ball, prison break, walking the swinging log. It is a time and place that allows students, teachers, and the principal to form friendships, and an understanding of each other.
Much has changed since the acquisition of the site. Originally, the district rented an old school, then an abandoned coal miner’s dormitory for housing the students. A large central meeting room and food preparation kitchen have been constructed. The cabins have been updated and enlarged. A full-time maintenance worker and cook have been hired. For many years, Dan and Kathryn Proctor were full-time caretakers and cooks for the students. They loved their time at Clear Creek and provided nourishing meals and clean facilities for the thousands of students who attended each year. Dan has passed away, but Kathryn still reminisces with fondness about her time spent at Clear Creek. Today Keith and Cindy Larsen are year-long residents of Clear Creek who maintain the facility and cook for the students.
Students have an opportunity to attend a week-long camp during the summer. It is a voluntary experience for any fifth- grade student who would like more extended time at Clear Creek. Lehi residents and educators, John J. Harris and Brad Greenwood, are co-directors of the summer camps. Teachers are hired and trained by Harris and Greenwood. The co-directors also teach rock and animal adaptation classes. The cost for the week-long camp is $230.
In an interview with Adams, he states, “Clear Creek is an experience that cannot be had in any other way.” Greenwood adds, “Clear Creek summer camp has produced many great memories for generations of participants. The main thing the camp offers is the opportunity to meet and make new friends and have outdoor experiences that combine education, conservation and enjoyment of nature.”