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Sing Away Songs


Grade level: middle and high school

Bryce Canyon Lodge was built in 1925, and became one of stops on a route developed by the Union Pacific Railroad in an effort to develop tourism in southern Utah. Tourists came by rail to Cedar City, Utah to start their trip through the wonders of canyon country. Each stop on the motor coach tour allowed visitors to experience the vast scenery of three national Parks: Zion, Grand Canyon, and Bryce. The employees at Bryce Canyon Lodge had a genuine interest in making sure visitors felt at home and helping them experience everything the Park had to offer. The employees started a tradition of standing on the lodge veranda and serenading the guests as they boarded the motor coaches to go on to the next lodge. Although the songs were familiar tunes to everyone, the employees wrote original lyrics that summarized the Bryce Canyon experience for the visitors. These songs became known as "sing away songs".

In this lesson, students will capture the essence of the Park by writing their own sing-away songs. They will research the natural wonders of Bryce and then report on Bryce in the form of a song.

    Students will:
  • Research Bryce Canyon National Park to learn about the Park's geologic features, recreational activities, and scenery.
  • Write lyrics to a "sing along song" similar to the songs sung by the employees at Bryce Canyon Lodge.

National Standards:

National Geography Standards

Standard 4:
The geographically informed person understands the physical and human characteristics of places

National History Standards

Standard 2:
The student thinks chronologically and is able to: F. Appreciate historical perspectives

National Social Studies Standards

Standard 1:
Time, Continuity, and Change Human beings seek to understand their historical roots and to locate themselves in time. Such understanding involves knowing what things were like in the past and how things change and develop. Knowing how to read and reconstruct the past allows one to develop a historical perspective and to answer questions such as: Who am I? What happened in the past? How am I connected to those in the past?

Standard 2:
People, Places, and Environments The study of people, places, and human-environment interactions assists learners as they create their spatial views and geographic perspectives of the world. Today's social, cultural, economic, and civic demands on individuals mean that students will need the knowledge, skills, and understanding to ask and answer questions such as: Where are things located? Why are they located where they are? What patterns are reflected in the groupings of things? What do we mean by region? How do landforms change?

National Standards for Arts Education: Music

Standard 1:
Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music

Standard 8:
Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.

  • Great Lodges of the National Parks: Canyon Lodges (PBS video)

    Start with: Located in the rocky center of Utah's canyon country...
    End with: Instead, he insisted that all three Parks be a community of rustic log cabins with a day lodge as the centerpiece.

    Start with: A 56-square mile splash of color, Bryce Canyon's unusual formations...
    End with: At Bryce, the original Gilbert Stanley Underwood vision can still be seen.

    Start with: the flute playing just after "Deluxe cabins were built with logs, with the big massive stone columns on the corner, the interiors had fireplaces in them."
    End with: It's a very spiritual experience.

    Start with: The employees would also sing to guests as they left the Lodges.
    End with: end of video
  • Write a list of traditional American fold songs that would be appropriate for the class to use in their work. Possibilities include Happy Trails to You; O, Shenandoah; Cross the Wild Missouri; Old Lang Zine
  • Tell the class that they are about to view a video on the Bryce Canyon National Park. Ask if anyone has been to any of these. If someone has, ask them to describe the Park to the class. If no one has been to the Park, ask what they know about the Park and then fill in any gaps. If no one has been there ask what are what kind of scenery you would expect to see in the southwestern U.S. Tell them to notice the scenery and the activities enjoyed by the visitors at Bryce.
  • After viewing video, ask them to describe this area and write their description on the board. Ask them what the lodge employees did when a group of Union Pacific tourists left their hotel. Explain to the class that they will be writing their own "sing away songs" in a similar fashion to how it was done in the video.
  • Review the names of the songs that were sung in the video and elicit from the class a possible list of traditional American songs for which they could write new lyrics. Include songs from your list, if needed.
  • Students will first use books and web sites to discover the wonders of Bryce Canyon. They should keep in mind what a typical day at the Park might be like. They should also read about the accommodations and dining at the Park for possible inclusion in their songs. Students will keep a list of what they find to help them write their songs.
  • Choose a song from the list and rewrite the lyrics to include possible experiences at Bryce.
  • Write one paragraph that explains the origins of "sing away songs"
Assessment Suggestions:
    Student assessment may be based on:
  • Accuracy of the lyrics. Did the student use a variety of Bryce experiences? Were they experiences that the typical tourist might enjoy? Did they capture the wilderness spirit of the Park?
  • Cadence of lyrics. Did the lyrics fit with the rhythm of the music?
  • Students write a rap or other type rock song for a modern-day "sing away."
  • Sing the songs at a school assembly for the rest of the school
  • Delve further into the role the rails played in developing the west by watching the PBS video The Iron Road.


Albright, H.M., 1931, The Rainbow Canyons

Tufts, L.S., 1992, Secrets in the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks

World-Wide Research & Publishing Co., 1972, A Photographic and Comprehensive Guide to Zion & Bryce National Parks