Sangamon Valley students investigate Overlook Adventure Park

Students at Sangamon Valley East Elementary were featured in the following Herald & Review Article by Valerie Wells

DECATUR – Even a baby alligator can bite if he wants to.

At Overlook Adventure Park on Tuesday, Sangamon Valley Elementary School students were introduced to a 3-year-old alligator named Pugsley. Scovill Zoo Director Ken Frye carried the critter in on his arm and offered kids and adults alike the chance to pet the gator's tail. Frye also answered a steady stream of questions.

One of those questions was “Why is his mouth open?” Maybe he's hot. Or cold. Or maybe he just wanted everyone to see all those sharp teeth so they'd realize why they were only petting his tail and not his head, Frye said.

“He's used to being handled,” Frye said. He pointed out that gators can run really fast, and set Pugsley down without releasing him so the kids could see how his little feet scrambled.

Second- and fourth-grade students at Sangamon Valley visited Overlook Adventure Park on Tuesday as part of their monthly STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities, teacher Kay Mason said.

The idea of visiting Overlook was to let the students take what they've learned from their smaller building projects and see those principles applied to real life, Mason said.

Every month has a different theme. In October, for example, they built pumpkin-chucking catapults. In December, they built gingerbread houses.

The gingerbread houses were the favorite project of Milaina Daniels and Kadence Templeton.

“I liked it because we got to shop for the ingredients and decorate them,” Milaina said.

Their task ahead of Tuesday's visit to Overlook was to come up with questions about the design and construction of Overlook, and when they get back to school, to write up a news-style story.

“They asked about the (future) water park, what was going to be in the water park, who are the architects of the water park, they asked about safety on the ropes course, how many people work here,” said Bill Clevenger, executive director of the Decatur Park District. “It was a good exercise for them.”

After the Q and A, the kids split up into two groups: one to play a round of miniature golf and one to try the ropes course.

Mason said a colleague had challenged her to do the ropes course, too, but with all those kids to keep an eye on, even with the help of a good number of parents and fellow teacher Jenny DeWeese, she kept her feet on solid ground.