Summit Academy program spans Utah history from Native American through Olympic years
Summit Academy fourth-graders perform a program about Utah’s history and people. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
Twelve years ago, when Summit Academy first opened its doors, fourth-grade teacher Loree Romriell’s sister wrote a program about Utah history for her fourth-graders that involved a cardboard time machine.
Through the years, the program has evolved as Romriell began teaching fourth grade and other teachers have added new songs, parts, musical instruments and, this year, video slide-show presentations.
“My sister wrote the program as a creative way to bring history to life,” Romriell said. “The program highlights Utah’s history and its people so students learn our history and what the state has to offer.”
Although the cardboard time machine became difficult to stage with increasing student enrollment and performing in the auditorium, fourth-graders still take the audience through time travel, kicking off the program with “Utah — This Is the Place.”
The travel-through-time program begins with life in Utah with the Fremont, Ute, Shoshone, Navajo and other tribes by first singing, then playing on recorders, “Utah Indians.”
“We first teach them the fingering and how to breathe, not blow, into the recorders,” teacher Lexi Horton said. “Once they learn that, then we go line by line to learn the song and go over and over and over it.”
Romriell said the effect is mesmerizing.
“It sounds more like pipes and has a Native American rhythm. It’s simple, repeating, but it really lends itself to the song,” she said.
The program progresses with fourth-graders dressed as early Spanish explorers Fathers Dominguez and Escalante with tales of traveling through Spanish Fork Canyon looking for a shortcut leading them to Timpanogos Lake (now Utah Lake). Students dressed as fur trappers and explorers like mountain men Jim Bridger and Jedediah Smith shared their tales, and students learned leaders Peter Skene Ogden and Étienne Provost would respectively lend their names for the cities of Ogden and Provo.
The time travel included learning that Brigham Young led Mormon pioneers to Utah where “he developed the grid system on land that nobody wanted.”
Students sang “Looking Back” to describe these days, and a video slideshow coordinated by teacher Emily Fox highlighted the time period.
Another song, “Iron Wheels,” brought about students in overalls, dressed as railroad workers who helped bring together the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads to build the first transcontinental railroad.
“The students really get into ‘Iron Wheels.’ It’s a real happy, fun song with movements they like doing,” Romriell said.
Highlighting the mining industry of Utah, students sang “Rock Cycle.” Students also dressed as farmers and shared that Utah was known as the agriculture and manufacturing leader of the west.
“We’ve learned that by incorporating Utah history through music, the students are memorizing it not just for the program, but really learning it. We’ve heard them humming songs like ‘Rock Cycle’ during testing, recalling what they’ve learned,” Romriell said.
Fourth-graders also shared what they learned about Utah becoming a state in 1896 and sang “29 Counties of Utah.” Students held up the names of each county, coordinated by teacher Angela Grimmer.
The fourth-grade program concluded with visitors coming to Utah for not only outdoor recreation and sports and its national parks, but also for the 2002 Olympics. Students sang “There’s No Place Like the State of Utah” to a slideshow that highlighted the state.
Students learn the songs throughout the year, but about one month before the program, they receive parts. Students can request a big or small part. Then, they learn their lines as part of their monthly memorizing lesson.
Fourth-grader Lilly Brimley held the county sign “Summit” during the “29 Counties of Utah” song.
“I was nervous, but it was fun because I learned about Utah’s history and science,” she said. “The best part was learning all the things while singing and dancing.”
Her mother, Katie, attended the program to support her daughter.
“I love Utah history and the fact that not only are they learning about their state, but they’re building pride in their state,” she said.