Getting Involved





Getting Involved

Blinding Us with Science! CSD’s Sean Thorpe is Bringing Science to the Masses

Move over Neil deGrasse Tyson, there’s a new popularizer of science in town.

Sean Thorpe, an instructional coach at Canyons School District, has found a way to introduce not just students, but entire school communities, to the wonders of science. They’re called Science Festivals. Not to be confused with science fairs, where students enter projects and compete for prizes, science festivals are hands-on family learning events open to students of all ages, from toddlers to grandparents.

“Science has always been something that I’m passionate about, that I love, so I wanted to create a tradition here at the school where we get students really involved in science literacy, excited about learning science and excited about doing science,” Thorpe said. “Our science festival is a time for students to come to the school with their families and friends and do science at the school with their teachers and with their neighbors, and it makes it more of a community approach to science learning.”

Thorpe recently staged a science festival at Oak Hollow Elementary that drew hundreds of students, their friends and families — all eager to try their hands at dissecting a squid, launching rockets, or cracking open geodes. The center of the activity was the cafeteria, which for one evening, was transformed into a squid dissection lab.

“Squids are cool!” remarked a student while guided by adult volunteers in identifying the different anatomical structures of the animal, from its beak and stomach to the organ holding the ink it ejects as a defense.

In addition to being a community-building activity, science festivals take quite the community effort to pull off. Parent volunteers and teenage students from neighboring Corner Canyon High School and groups like Latinos in Action helped staff the Oak Hollow festival as well as raise money to purchase needed supplies ranging from hammers and geodes to surgical gloves, goggles, and gowns.

Thorpe and his squad of citizen scientists set up experiments of all types in classrooms across the school. Families were given checklists and maps and a goal of completing as many experiments as possible.

“I think there’s huge benefits to involving the community. It develops that sense of continuity for our students, which helps create a caring educational setting. Our students who are younger can see our older students participating in similar activities,” Thorpe said. “They can see those high school students helping out and then yearn to do that when they are older.”

None of the experiments disappointed and all of them were designed to engage  the students at their level.

Building a Fizz rocket can be as simple as placing a seltzer tablet in a film canister with water. Flip it upside down and watch it pop! But students were also given information about the chemical reaction taking place and encouraged to test out variations.

“It’s age-appropriate from kindergarten through the 12th grade, so anyone can access it as long as they’ve got some help, which is where we bring in that community volunteer aspect of it,” Thorpe said.

Mixing chemicals to create a growing and glowing warmth known as “sunshine in a bag” seems simple enough. But the three-step process is actually pretty involved. First, you dump calcium chloride into a plastic bag, then add water, which forms calcium oxide and hydrochloric acid. The calcium oxide sinks to the bottom of the bag and the acid splits into two ions, which produces heat. Next, you add a test tube of Phenol red, an acid base indicator, and shake the bag, and you get the picture.

From the “Genie in the Cup” chemistry demonstration to lessons in absorbency using the same materials they use to make disposable diapers, to the lotion-filled gloves used to help students see how blubber keeps warm-blooded sea animals warm…Oak Hollow’s Science Festival was a feast for the senses and joy for the experimenters, dreamers, and the doers of tomorrow.

But the highlight of the evening was the foam gnome, a chemical reaction demonstration by none other than Thorpe and an assistant who dumped several bottles of the chemicals polyA and polyB into a garbage can, stirred them up, and then watched as an exothermic reaction solidified the mixture into polyurethane foam, which spilled from the top of the garbage can and hardened into a monstrous sculpture.

It was the perfect end to a perfectly delightful evening of oohs, awes, and hands-on, real-world lessons in science.

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Board Meeting Schedule

PUBLIC NOTICE is hereby given that the Board of Education for Canyons School District will hold a regular study session and public business meeting at the Canyons District Office building, 9361 S. 300 E., Sandy, UT each month unless otherwise posted. The Board may determine to conduct some business during a study session. All business meetings will begin at 7:00 p.m. unless changed by the Board and appropriately posted for the public.

Please note that ALL DATES, TIMES and LOCATIONS listed on this scheduled are TENTATIVE and are subject to change at any time.  Please check this schedule often to be informed of any changes.

Unless otherwise specified, all meetings in the schedule below will take place as the Canyons District Office located at 9361 S. 300 E. in Sandy, Utah.

District Leaders

Dr. Rick Robins


Dr. Rick L. Robins is the superintendent of Canyons School District. Dr. Robins, who was selected by the Canyons Board of Education after a national search, brings 24 years of experience as an educator to his role as the chief executive officer of Utah’s fifth-largest school district. Prior to joining Canyons, Dr. Robins, who earned an Ed.D. from the University of Las Vegas, for six years was Superintendent of the Juab School District, based in Nephi, Utah. While there, Dr. Robins, who also was the Juab High School Principal from 2009-2013, helped oversee efforts to improve the district’s graduation rate to 97 percent, a double-digit increase over a 10-year period. Other innovations he led in Juab included a partnership with Arizona State University for blended-learning opportunities; the launch of a districtwide competency-based personalized learning model driven by a 1:1 technology initiative and standards-based reporting system; and the construction of the STEM-focused West Campus Innovations Center, funded largely through private and corporate sponsorships. Dr. Robins began his career as a history teacher at Copper Hills High in the Jordan School District and has worked as an assistant principal and principal in the Alpine, Nebo and Juab school districts. He was the 2012 Utah High School Principal of the Year for the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2014 earned the Lexington Institute Superintendent Fellowship Award presented to innovative superintendents across the country. Dr. Robins was starting quarterback for the football team at Southern Utah University Thunderbirds from 1991-1995, and in 2013 was inducted into SUU’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He has four children and one grandchild.

Leon Wilcox

Business Administrator and CFO

Leon Wilcox is a seasoned professional with 20 years of governmental accounting experience, with an emphasis on financial reporting, budgeting, and auditing. As Canyons District’ Director of Accounting from 2009-2013, Wilcox was intricately involved with the 2009 division of $1.5 billion in assets of the former Jordan School District, and was responsible for establishing Canyons’ original and subsequent budgets. Wilcox, a certified public accountant who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from Utah State University, also has worked nine years in the Granite School District and six years in the State Auditor’s Office.

Supervises:  Accounting and Budget Services, Facilities and Maintenance, Insurance, New Construction Budget, Nutrition Services, Purchasing, Payroll

Dr. Robert M. Dowdle

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and School Performance

Robert Dowdle has a Doctor of Education degree with an emphasis in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah, and more than 31 years of experience as a teacher and educational leader. He began his career at Mount Jordan Middle School, where he taught Earth Science, English and Social Studies. He later taught Advanced Placement Economics, U.S. History and World History at Bingham High School, and served as Principal of Jordan High School and Assistant Principal for Alta High School and Brighton High School. Dowdle has served in the District office for 11 years as Assistant Superintendent. This role has included various leadership responsibilities, including Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer. Dr. Dowdle currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and School Performance.

Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

Specialty Schools

High Schools

Elementary Schools

Middle Schools

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Statement

Canyons School District is committed to making this website compliant with the ADA. At this time, we recognize that not all areas of this website may be ADA compliant. We are currently in the process of redesigning and creating new website content to be compliant with the W3C Level Two guidelines. If you are experiencing issues with this website, please contact us here

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