Learning Through Field Trip Adventures

By Peter Klam, Middle School Head

Few aspects of our program speak more deeply to the principles of progressive education than our outdoor education trips. By going out to experience the world as a community of learners, our students learn collaboratively, they learn by doing, and they create memories that will inspire them for the rest of their academic lives.

Our 5th and 7th grade trips are science-focused trips where our students come to understand how the principles that they have learned in books and practiced in labs are applied in the real world. Our 5th graders travel to the Echo Hill Outdoor School on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, where they learn about the Bay, its creatures, and the ongoing efforts to clean and maintain the Bay. Our 7th graders go to Chincoteague Island, where they study the ecology of the surrounding wetlands. Both of these groups engage in activities that help them to internalize the lessons they learned in class about the natural world and the interconnected systems of life, weather, and human interaction.

Eighth graders follow up on their study of 20th-century history and politics by traveling to New York City, where their visits span the century, taking them from Ellis Island to the United Nations and on to the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum.

Sixth graders learn to push themselves physically and to collaborate effectively as a team as they face ropes courses and orienteering challenges at Bar-T Mountainside. Seventh graders have a similar beginning-of-the-year experience at The Mountain Institute, where they learn to maneuver in teams in the woods.

These experiences do more than punctuate our students’ learning. They make that learning real and meaningful as they connect classroom and school-based experiences with the outside world. Students come away more independent, more collaborative, more skillful and knowledgeable, and more deeply aware that the learning they do in their classrooms isn’t just jumping through hoops designed by teachers—it is preparation for a lifelong, fulfilling adventure through a complex and engaging world.

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