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Foray Into the Concrete Jungle

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For students from tiny towns like Lowell, Ore. (pop. 1,500), an urban area can be a strange and forbidding environment.

So when 8th graders from Lowell make their annual journey to Eugene, the trip is usually filled with the combination of enthusiasm and trepidation that a troop of urban youths might display if sent to forage for themselves in the forest wilderness of the nearby Cascade Range.

"Survival Day," as this adventure into the depths of a metropolis is known, is intended to familiarize 14-year-old students from Lundy Elementary School with the resources of a city, as well as to introduce them to a world filled with unknown people and streets.

After traveling together to Eugene, a university town of some 140,000, the students are dropped off in pairs at various locations throughout the area and given until the early afternoon to work their way through a series of tasks.

The long list includes a stop at City Hall, where students must describe the city-council chambers, a visit to the police station to pick up an accident report, and a trek to the courthouse, where the visitors must watch a trial for at least 10 minutes and describe the proceedings, explained Ralph Hesse, an English teacher who organizes the expedition along with a colleague, Jackie Kennedy.

Another task, locating the cheapest hotel room in town, usually provides students with a few good laughs, Mr. Hesse noted.

The event must make a major impression on students, Mr. Hesse observed, since the experience of conquering the big city is almost always mentioned in their graduation-day speeches.--jw

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