Orchard School’s fifth grade teacher Dayle Wright instructs students about the geologic significance of the Bolton potholes.


Rocking and Rolling: VT’s Geologic History

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Thursday October 15, 2015

Several of Vermont’s significant geologic landmarks are coming to life for Orchard School’s fifth graders. With the guidance of their classroom teachers Dayle Wright, Lolly Bliss, and Tracy Garland, the students are immersed in weekly fieldwork that takes them to a variety of locations across the Champlain Valley. While understanding that Earth’s timeline began 4.6 billion years ago, the students examine and document scientific evidence to consecutively piece together events that created the state in which they now live. Many resident Vermonters may not be aware of these educational landmarks and all they can teach us about the geologic evolution of our state over millions of years. The learning sites included in the field trip series are Salmon Hole in Winooski, Lone Rock Point in Burlington, Mount Philo in Charlotte, Bolton Potholes, and Lessor’s Quarry in South Hero.

After working at Bolton Potholes to observe rock formations carved by moving glaciers, fifth grader Benton Cutroni took his family back two days later to teach them the history. Knowing that magnetite was abundant in the river after collecting it himself, Ben and his family harvested several pounds of it to take home. Ben’s younger sister, Avery, was excited to have a preview of the learning adventures awaiting her when she becomes a fifth grader at Orchard.

The culmination of Orchard’s fifth grade Geologic Time unit is a Parent Share in November. The students create an informational book to document their learning and chronicle their hands-on experiences throughout the Vermont locations. After gathering specific rock samples at each site, every student maintains a labeled, representative rock collection for evidence and keeping.

“Capturing students’ natural curiosity through physically and intellectually challenging adventures is a gateway to authentic, unforgettable, transformative learning,” says Garland, adding, “not just about the world, but about themselves.”