Echo Canyon

Echo Canyon’s second grade class learns the basics of karate. 


According to Principal Kat Hughes, students at Echo Canyon School are delighted after the school’s popular Exploration Fridays program made a comeback after a year-long break. 

The holistic-learning event gives students wings for their imaginations as they hear from a colorful conglomeration of guest speakers, parents, and organizations that inspire and educate. 

Some previous events include a SWAT team demonstrating robots, yoga, sports skills, taiko drumming, beekeeping, woodworking and puppeteering. The workshops are typically capped off with a written assignment or an art or science project.

“The list of presenters is wide and varied,” Hughes said. “Desert Botanical Gardens recently came out to do lessons on monarch butterflies and migration. Not only did they help us create a monarch way station, but they taught us how to introduce milkweed into our gardens.”

Chefs have taught the kids how to make different dishes, and artists taught other art techniques. 

“A farmer even came out with his chickens!” she said. 

Hughes shared one of the most memorable lessons for students, when middle-schoolers worked on a program called “Stop Motion Animation.” Students moved their clay creations incrementally, a milliliter at a time, to create short movies.

Hands-on learning has always been the cornerstone of Echo Canyon. Students have calculated the height of trees using mathematical formulas, and they’ve also incorporated algebraic computations to determine how much organic fertilizer the tree needs. 

“These are real-life applications that inspire the kids,” said Hughes.

Echo Canyon is now implementing a modified Exploration Friday program with strategies to keep everyone safe. In the revised plan, students remain in their classroom with their teacher instead of mingling with other students. They still get to experience two presenters, but they will be assigned instead of choosing the ones they want. The program will also be offered three times a year instead of four – coming up in March and May. 

“The great thing about this program is the diversity of our presenters,” Paige Rogers, PTO president, said. “Kids get exposed to ideas and concepts outside the curriculum. It’s fun and exciting and gets parents and the community involved. It pushes all of us out of our element.” 

Rogers’ son Miles has taken a variety of Exploration Fridays. 

“My favorite time was when we made slime,” he recounted. “We learned about matter and chemicals, and that made it interesting. I also like the fact that classes are not too crowded. I am looking forward to more, mostly because of all the great ideas they keep coming up with.”