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Sugar House Journal

Hidden Hollow Gives Students Hands-On Experience on Earth Day

Aug 04, 2016 13h39 ● By Natalie Mollinet

Students explore the nature in Hidden Hollow. —Pieter Lingen

By Natalie Mollinet | [email protected]

Sugar House, Utah - Earth Day is a wonderful day to focus on things that people can do for their environment and to appreciate the world around them. Two school classes from Highland Park Elementary got the chance this Earth Day to walk through the Hidden Hollow nature preserve and get some hands-on experience with the native nature.

“Earth Day at Hidden Hollow was wonderful,” Lynne Olson said. “Two fourth-grade classes from Highland Park Elementary walked to the Hollow with their teachers.”

The students in Pieter Lingen and Erin Agrimson’s fourth-grade classes got to explore the area with Dr. Marc Coles-Ritchie — an expert in riparian ecology — who taught them about the six plant communities in the small nature preserve. The students learned about the ecosystem of the preserve and learned that the six plant communities represented the different elevations in Parleys Creek.

Along with learning from Dr. Coles-Ritchie, students got to plant wildflowers with Dr. Ty Harrison, a professor emeritus of biology at Westminster College. The students enjoyed the hands-on experience and really got to understand the plants there.

“I think that the value of having students go outside and notice what is around them is huge!” Pieter Lingen said. “In a classroom we can talk about things, maybe even see pictures and movies, which is good, but until they can go and see, they won’t remember the experience.”

Lingen said that the students remember the field trip and remember seeing and touching things in nature. They remembered walking over bridges, seeing ducks in the water and doing lots and lots of walking, but being hands-on really helped them understand their impact on nature.

“The children discussed human influences on the natural areas,” Olson said. “In the amphitheater, they played the ‘habitat game’ with ecologist Dr. Arthur Morris. He also taught them how to measure the height of the trees in the Hollow or the hoodoos in the Draw, using a folded piece of paper as their only tool!”

One of the major events that happened at Hidden Hollow on Earth Day was Sheri Sohm and her students receiving the first Utah Open Lands Legacy Award. The award was presented to Sohm and her students by Wendy Fisher, the executive director of Utah Open Lands, for helping make the small reserve what it is today.

“Since 1990, Sohm’s students have honed their problem-solving skills by strategizing ways to preserve the historic parkland from being developed into a shopping mall, and how to restore [it] as a natural area and outdoor classroom,” Olson said.

Hidden Hollow was actually once a park in Sugar House back in 1910. However, in the 1940s the post office cut off access to the park on Highland Drive, which started a decline in the park. Eventually the small area became isolated, ignored and forgotten. Parts of the park were sold and developed into buildings and parking lots, and soon all that was left was the small wooded area.

“That was the situation in 1990,” Olson said. “Then Sheri Sohm’s Extended Learning Program (ELP) students at Hawthorne School happened to cross the abandoned park; they decided that it should be preserved and re-dedicated as a city nature park and outdoor classroom.”

Sohm still teaches neighborhood ELP classes at Hawthorne Elementary and is honored to get such recognition. The award not only thanked her but honored the hundreds of students who have helped Hidden Hollow over the decades.

“It was an honor to receive the first Utah Open Lands Legacy Award,” Sohm said. “I have admired the world of the Utah Open Lands for years. Hidden Hollow has become an example of urban open lands preservation that benefits both the residential and commercial community.”

Sohm hopes that the community can take time to walk through the area and perhaps see what the young students saw on Earth Day. She hopes that having regular activities in the Hollow will remind citizens of the importance of the small stream.

“Hopefully, all who walk through the area will realize that it is possible and important to save ‘a little part of nature’ even when powerful forces say that it cannot be done,” Sohm said.

“The friends of Hidden Hollow have done a good job to plant and label things that are native to Utah,” Lingen said. “This also helps the students to see actual plants that can be found throughout the state. Outdoor learning is where it is at!”

Thanks to Sohm and her students throughout the years, students now can enjoy the beauty of the little wooded area in Sugar House. If you happen to find yourself walking around Sugar House Park this summer, take a walk through the tunnel underneath 1300 East, and you will find yourself in a natural wooded area you may have not known existed. ​   λ