As I sit here and look back to the beginning of the school year I wonder where all the time has gone. I can still remember feeling so excited to see all of the students back at school and looking forward to a great start to the year. Now I’m sitting in my classroom looking through photographs from the first term and am absolutely stunned at how much growth I see from these students. These children inspire me to be better every day and I feel fortunate to be a part of something special.
The beginning of this year was a busy time for field trips. With the intermediate classes studying geology in science it only seemed right to get out and experience the accessible geology we have here in the Portland area. Growing up in the Chicago area we would often talk about large valleys and volcanic rock but to see it in nature or dig for it yourself was a new and exciting adventure waiting to happen!
After a month into the new year our school had an all 3rd-8th grade overnight sleepover in the one acre garden area on campus. Looking back, the experience to come and eat food, play games, dance, set up tents, tell stories and sing songs around a fire was extremely important and beneficial for the students. When we woke up we ate breakfast together and started our day. The intermediate group had geology professor Dr. Scott Burns stop by from Portland State University to talk about the Missoula Floods and the geology found in the Columbia River Gorge.
Once Dr. Burns was finished speaking we took a short trip to Larch Mountain to see what he had talked to us about. It was exciting to see students jumping up and down as they tried to explain where they thought the water levels were during the floods and why. Our next geologic trip was to Portland State University to take a “Geology In The City” tour. Students were able to see and touch statues, buildings, and pathways that all had specific samples with basalt or granite used in different ways. One week later we took a short day trip to the Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center to hear them speak to us a little about the Missoula Floods and the gorge as well.
In October we took another 3rd – 8th grade trip but this time was a little farther than the garden out back of the school. We took the students to Seattle, Washington, to see the Olympic Sculpture Park and the Experience Music Project. The first day, we arrived at the sculpture park and set up activities. One group would work on a scavenger hunt together while another group would tour the sculpture park to eventually present each sculpture to their classmates!
After a long day of traveling and touring we stayed at Camp Long. Camp Long is a wonderful camp with ten cabins, a large field, rock wall, and cooking areas ten minutes form downtown. We finished dinner and fought a little bit of rain but found our cabins and relaxed for the night. In the morning we jumped back on the bus and headed for the Experience Music Project where students were able to explore isolation booths with guitars, bass guitars, drums, keyboards, microphones, DJ turntables, and more! There were a few self guided tours that would teach about the history of rock & roll, jazz, and blues. There were also many biographical areas about artists like Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Robert Johnson and Eric Clapton. I think one of the best parts of the Experience Music Project was taking small groups into a classroom for songwriting workshops, cartooning, and more. Overall all three locations in Seattle were fantastic and are highly recommended.
The end of our fantastic geologic voyage was at the end of October when we took a class trip to Richardson’s Rock Ranch to dig our own thunder eggs! Did you know that the thunder egg is Oregon’s state rock? We made it to the rock ranch and were given a guided tour of the beds. Each student was given a rock hammer and a bag for their thunder egg. I can’t express enough how beneficial this was for the students to connect with the geology they have been learning about. So many students think geology is just looking at some rocks but after this trip I had students starting their own rock and gem collections by identifying their own rocks as igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary.
I continue to see that the field trips and overnight programs engage students intellectually, socially, and physically, creating powerful and memorable learning experiences. I feel that the most powerful memories are those of scenes from our own lives. Those memories are created through sensory experiences such as sight, touch, sound, smell and taste. I can’t help but think that educational experiences away from the classroom are a critical tool for creating these kinds of memories while enhancing the classroom experience.