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GIFT SHOWS STUDENTS KNOW UTAH

SHARE GIFT SHOWS STUDENTS KNOW UTAH

When Raymond Whittenburg was growing up in Utah, he would spend a portion of his school year harvesting beets with his Jordan High School Beet Digger classmates in the Salt Lake Valley's open fields.

The thriving beet industry relied heavily on the help of students. School was officially let out while students dug up and "topped" beets with their hand tools in the fields.Now the fields in Sandy, Draper, Midvale, West Jordan are filling with homes and businesses as the valley is experiencing a huge boom in housing.

Whittenburg, 58, has served as superintendent of Jordan School District for 16 years. During his tenure, Whittenburg has lived through many dramatic changes in the state's second largest school district.

During a visit to Lone Peak Elementary School, Whittenburg told fourth-graders in Pam Purvis' class stories about some of the ways their community has changed in the past decades.

The kids had invited the superintendent to be their guest speaker. But they also had another motive in mind: They surprised Whittenburg with a handmade quilt depicting every county in Utah in colorful pictures. The students worked on the quilt as part of their fourth-grade curriculum on Utah history.

"I was thrilled to receive the beautiful quilt," said Whittenburg. "Not only is it a wonderful piece of art, it's obvious that the students learned a great deal about the diversity of Utah's geography, industries and educational opportunities by drawing what they had learned about the counties."

Whittenburg's wife, Merilyn, enjoys viewing Utah through the eyes of the children. She points out the intricacies of the quilt. In Kane County, the kids drew a picture of a dune buggy to represent the recreational opportunities the sand dunes offer and an Anasazi village to remind them of the county's history. In Piute County, they drew a picture of Butch Cassidy's home. Wasatch County is represented by a hiker, boating and the Heber Creeper train. A huge, green dinosaur stands in the quilt square that bears Uintah County's name.

"This quilt is a treasure," she said. "I wonder how many Utahns could name the 29 counties in Utah."

The superintendent adds, "It's important kids understand that Utah includes more than Salt Lake County. They've learned there is a world beyond Sandy and that there are many different ways of making a living within our state."

Whittenburg intends to have the quilt framed and hung in his home office. "It'll always be a special reminder to me of the many great kids who live in this district."

During his classroom visit, the students paid close attention to the superintendent as he told them about how the growth in the valley would affect them. Many will attend different high schools than their older siblings have attended because new schools are being built. Draper and Riverton will have new high schools within the next few years.

They especially enjoyed the story of how their school was originally going to be built underground. When Lone Peak Elementary, 11515 High Mesa Drive, was constructed in 1985, school officials were concerned about an energy crunch in the nation. Because the school is located on a hill, it was thought building it into the hill would conserve energy. However, it turned out the district could save money by building the school in the more traditional way.

"We bought the property for the school when property values weren't so high. With the prices of property today, I don't think the district could afford to buy at this prime location."