Field Studies/Outdoor Education K-8
Kindergarten – Fifth Grade Field Trips
Students at Black Pine Circle School know that learning does not just involve your brain, but can be a full contact body activity! In addition to students running and playing games in P.E., dancing in music, creating in art, digging up plants in gardening and other kinesthetic activities, students have the opportunity to experience learning by stepping off campus and into the wider world. Field trips are a crucial element of the educational experience and they can be the glue that holds together all that the students have been learning about in a particular unit of the curriculum. As an educator, it is a truly fascinating aspect of teaching to watch children see their book and classroom learning come alive through a hands-on, experiential opportunity. Our Lower School students take about six field trips a year, and teachers plan to include all or most disciplines; Science, History, Outdoor Education, the Arts, and Music.
Here is a sampling of field studies in the words of our Head Teachers:
“The Kindergarteners’ annual trip to the Clayton Valley Pumpkin Farm was not only fun, but very educational. The Kindergarteners learned about the life cycle of a pumpkin, and about different types of pumpkins and gourds. They also experienced milking a model “cow,” and grinding Indian corn. Every year I also like to take my Kindergartners to see live theater. I believe it’s important for them to experience the magic of theater whether it’s through a play, music or dance.”
“The 1st graders went on a field trip to the Oakland Zoo with their 4th grade buddies. This provided a wonderful opportunity for them to get to know each other and become friends. The 4th graders were able to provide information about the animals and their habitats as they worked on an animal treasure hunt together. The older children also took great care of their younger buddies as they escorted them through the zoo. One of our field trips in the spring will be to the San Francisco Symphony. Almost all of the students play an instrument and this provides them an exciting view into the world of professional musicians. The program is especially geared for children and it includes an explanation of the music and the role of the different instruments. It is an interactive and lively presentation that always includes music familiar to the children, such as the theme from Star Wars!”
“This past fall the 2nd graders visited the Berkeley Botanical Gardens as part of their study of trees. The warm, humid tropical rain forest exhibit had a huge effect on them. They were fascinated by the touch-sensitive plant and the enormous leaves on some of the other plants. The cacao tree also caused a great deal of excitement.”
“During the 3rd grade’s exploration of space, we take a field trip to the hands-on Chabot Space and Science Center. This museum features interactive exhibits that encourage students to explore such diverse topics as the phases of the moon, astronaut life, gravity of the planets, and more. Earlier this year, the 3rd grade took a trip to the Contra Costa Civic Theatre. Students had an opportunity to explore the building for examples of simple machines. They found that the fly system dropped into the sets using a pulley system, the platforms on stage rotated using wheels, and the tools downstairs used levers, wedges, and so much more! Students had a chance to see how simple machines are absolutely necessary to get a show up and running, and had a fantastic time exploring the backstage elements of theatre!”
Headlands Institute overnight October 2010 – click here for photos
Mission Dolores & Precita Eyes Mural Tour
“One of our favorite 4th grade trips is to see Mission Dolores in San Francisco and take the Precita Eyes Mural Tour. San Francisco is lucky to have its Mission curated by a descendant of local Native Californians. The tour addresses the founding of the Mission, its building, and the lives of the natives who lived in and around it. We tour the cemetery and get a glimpse of the evolution of the population from Mexican Californios to Irish and other European immigrants. Our mural tour includes a slide show that shows some of the history of San Francisco murals and then we walk through Balmy Alley, discussing the meaning of what we see.”
“For the 5th grade, the three-day trip to Sacramento in March is certainly a highlight: the capitol, the train museum, the Stanford Mansion, the swimming pool at the inn! However, two of my favorite day trips of the year are our trip to the Mill Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant and the one to the Presidio National Cemetery. The Wastewater Treatment Plant trip is ‘science in action,’ and we get to hear from a real scientist about a part of society that we rely upon heavily, but seldom give much thought to; the Presidio National Cemetery brings us face to face with the names of real individuals who served in events that can seem abstract and dusty if we leave them entirely to the books to describe.”
Sixth Grade Headlands Institute Week
View slide show: 6th Grade week at the Headlands, October 2010.
Sixth graders spend a week each year at the Headlands Institute in Marin, working in teams with field science educators and living away from home for five days and four nights. This year, the sixth grade teaching team decided to schedule the trip in the fall in order to foster strong community building among students early in the school year. While much has been written about the value of hands-on learning experiences that allow kids to absorb information at a deeper level, sixth grade Math and Science teacher and former Headlands Institute educator, Meg Wood, sums it up when she says, “Outdoor Education is school.” Humanities teacher, Maria Palmer, also accompanied the class, then had students write about their memories of their week at the Headlands as an introduction to the sixth grade’s study of memoir.
He remembers whitecaps spraying through Point Bonita Arch. He remembers being curled under a warm sleeping bag. He remembers sketching a stuffed raptor, still as a photograph. He remembers standing on the summit of Hawk Hill, the Golden Gate Bridge spread out below across the entrance to the bay. He remembers the sweet aroma of food as he waited in line outside the dining hall. He remembers sitting on top of the hill at night, San Francisco’s lights sprawled beneath, fog-horns hooting like owls. He remembers waves crashing against the sand. He remembers hiking around the lagoon, the sun reflecting off the shimmering waters. He remembers looking through the shallow murky water in his Frisbee, excitedly waiting for little critters to appear. He remembers standing in the valley of the headlands, the mountains, the ocean, the lagoon. He remembers happiness.
Marin Headlands, a Place Full of Memories
She remembers arriving and everybody claiming beds. She remembers the waves crashing against the rocks. She remembers sitting on the cold, wet sand watching the sun slowly fall into the water as it set the sky on fire. She remembers trying to fall asleep to the squeak-squeaking of the old beds. She remembers being pulled out of bed and dragged out to breakfast. She remembers stuffing herself with pancakes and sweet warm blueberry sauce. She remembers trudging up Hawk Hill. She remembers thinking that the view was a painted picture. She remembers the confusing yet simple game of the Green Glass Door. She remembers falling into bed not caring about anything but sleep. She remembers being pulled out of bed and dragged out to breakfast. She remembers going to the ocean at night and seeing the little bioluminescent plankton light up. She remembers sticking her hand into cold, icy water and feeling the slimy sea star. She remembers sharing workouts for every muscle in her body. She remembers feeling the pride of completing the Swiss ski challenge. She remembers being surrounded by friends and laughing harder than she had ever laughed before. She remembers leaving Marin Headlands with mixed emotions and drifting to sleep in the car.
Seventh Grade Leadership Overnight, Tilden Park
The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born. —Warren G. Bennis
What do Lance Armstrong, Benazir Bhutto, and Eleanor Roosevelt all have in common? And what do they have to do with seventh graders spending the night in Tilden Park? Leadership, of course, is the answer. The least flashy and perhaps deepest aspect of the Upper School’s Outdoor Education program happens in seventh grade, when Head of School, John Carlstroem, takes the seventh grade on a ‘leadership’ overnight. This trip is designed to help students step into their roles as the school’s leaders when they enter eighth grade the following year. Students work in teams playing collaborative games, solving group problems and learning about notable leaders. They set up tents and prepare all their meals. Individually, students write and reflect on their roles as classmates, family members, and rising leaders. John Carlstroem has used this overnight as a model for teaching about student leadership in his Bay Area Teacher Development Collaborative Summer Workshop. He reflects, “It’s that moment at 12:45 a.m. when kids are repairing their tent, that you see how they respond to adversity, and that is what will set the tone for the next school year.”
Eighth Grade Yosemite Institute Trip
Black Pine Circle’s Eighth Grade Science, English and History teachers collaborate with the Yosemite Institute staff to use the trip in a cross-curricular unit on utopia/dystopia.
In Science, the spectacular Yosemite Valley serves as a specific location for learning the basics of ecology, and for students to create management plans that can help to minimize human impact in the national park. The trip acts as a wilderness experience to add to the students’ understanding of utopias and dystopias through readings in English. As part of the History curriculum, American attitudes toward wilderness are examined, using human history in Yosemite as an example. On the trip, students keep journals recording evidence of human impact in the valley that they observed on their hikes:
• Deer that would not move off the path because they have become so accustomed to humans.
• Footpaths across meadows causing drainage, which speeds their return to forest.
• Trails up to Vernal and Nevada Falls that include rails with guard posts.
• Light pollution at night cutting down on the number of visible stars.
In the 2009-10 trip, the Yosemite Institute staff led the Eighth Grade in a variety of entertaining and challenging activities that were tailored to fit the school’s annual theme, “Take A Chance.”
• They navigated safely in a long, single-file through a rock fall called Spider Cave, which was pitch black and sometimes very narrow.
• Students were led into a crack in two giant boulders, where they just fit, and then instructed to arrange themselves according to eye color from darkest to lightest.
• They did several mile-long night hikes with no flashlights.
The Yosemite outdoor education trip provides plenty of adventures and the students feel enriched by the opportunities that experiential learning in the field provide.