Our Big Green World!
July 23rd, 2012
By: Kathryn Vanderwal
Exciting. Rewarding. Just plain fun. All descriptions of our latest summer learning academy field trip! I believe our latest field trip will stand out in my memory as one of the times I’ve seen students the most fully, enthusiastically, delightedly engaged in their learning.
Let me give you some background. Our theme this summer is “Our Big Green World.” Each week we study a specific topic that fits within the theme and finish up with a field trip that coordinates with that topic. At the beginning of the summer we had the fun opportunity to study about gardens, plants, and how plants grow, finishing up the week with a visit to Ham Farms. The following week we studied the process of garden to table, learning about healthy foods and finishing with a visit to the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market, where students experienced the connection between food growing on the farm and food traveling to the market to be sold.
Fast forward a few weeks and that brings us to our most recent topic, garden insects, and our most recent trip – the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. When given a map and the choice of what to explore first my group of students made a “bee-line” for the bee hive exhibit! Inwardly I was cheering, delighted at their excitement to explore the very things they had already been learning about. And they were just getting started… After thoroughly investigating the bee hive we continued to the various other exhibits, watching the students dive into the different activities with glee. We continued to the next floor where my students quickly discovered the farm exhibit and firmly “planted” themselves there for almost the rest of our stay. There is a portion of the exhibit where you can plant your vegetables, harvest them, put them in wheelbarrows and bring them to a farmers stand which you can set up to sell your produce. My students, varying grades from 1-6, jumped in with sweet abandon and utter excitement to plant, grow, harvest, and sell repeatedly.
We had spent several weeks laying an educational foundation, imparting knowledge, providing examples and even experiences related to the information. The students enjoyed and engaged in each experience, but here was an opportunity to “own” the information they had learned. They weren’t watching, observing, or asking questions – they were experiencing it, making it their own, putting themselves right into the middle of it! They were showing me that the things they had been learning about had ceased to be just concepts and had become real, natural, and motivating to them.