SPANISH FORK Students from Tom Willis's ninth-grade field science class are leaving their mark at the Diamond Fork campground, but in a good way.
The class, along with the Utah Forest Service, volunteers and students from Rees Elementary School in Spanish Fork, worked Saturday to begin phase two of the student-designed Discovery Trail.
Phase one of the trail began in 2002 and was completed this summer. The trail features six information stations, which give information about the surrounding habitat, migrating birds and other forest facts. The signs feature poems and drawings made by students from Willis's class at Payson Junior High and students from Rees elementary.
"All we're doing is reinforcing the information (everyone) should have learned during biology class," Willis said, regarding his student's project. "We're passing it on to anybody who walks along that trail. My students, when they have their own kids, can take them along the trail and take ownership of what they've done."
The Diamond Fork Discovery Trail is an area that also serves as an outdoor classroom. Students take field trips to the area several times a year to receive lessons taught by members of the Forest Service.
Among the lessons are how to take field surveys, how animals adapt to the changing seasons, and why trees change color with the seasons.
"The whole outdoor classroom is so important," said Sarah Flinders, Diamond Fork Youth Forest coordinator. "It's so good to get kids out of the classroom and teach them hands-on because they learn at such a different level."
While visiting the outdoor classroom, students take water samples and gather data on migratory birds in the area, just as scientists would. Some of the information gathered in that process is posted along the Discovery Trail, including guides and homemade drawings of particular birds that use the area as a refuge during their migration.
Though phase one of the trail is nearly finished, minus a teepee and replica beaver dam, phase two of the trail is just beginning. Volunteers on Saturday cleared brush and laid down groundwork for the continuation of the trail.
Phase two will also include information signs designed by the students involved with the Youth Forest, and the trail will be almost one mile long when it is completed.
Though some children are hesitant when they first get to the forest to work or to engage in the outdoor classroom, according to Willis, most of the children soon become comfortable and fascinated by their surroundings."My hope is that they'll have a greater appreciation for what's there," Willis said. "Perhaps they can . . . sleep under the stars and appreciate what's out there. When you're more familiar (with nature), you're not afraid."