This fall, many middle school students departed for several exciting age-appropriate, weeklong class trips, providing hands-on learning outside the classroom. In late October, grade 6 students visited the Santa Cruz Mountains; grade 7 toured national parks around the Southwest; and grade 8 journeyed to Washington, D.C.
Below, Harker News Online takes a look at all three adventures.
Grade 6 Students Head to Mt. Cross for Action Packed Outdoor Activities
The Santa Cruz mountains provided the perfect backdrop for grade 6 students to actively bond during their class trip to Mt. Cross. A camping and retreat site located in the redwood forests, Mt. Cross provided plenty of opportunities for kayaking, bird watching, completing a ropes course, swimming, and enjoying the area’s gorgeous weather and scenic beauty.
A highlight of the trip was a visit to The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, one of 28 such reserves established nationwide as field laboratories for scientific research and estuarine education. Following the reserve visit was an excursion to nearby Moss Landing, a quaint, historic fishing village known for its shopping, fresh seafood, fine art studios, bird and whale watching.
One night the naturalists at Mt. Cross surprised and delighted the students by leading them through a haunted house built from items on hand. That was followed by eating s’mores and sharing skits around a huge campfire.
“I had an awesome time at Mt. Cross!” recalled student Jack Hansen. “I was able to stretch my comfort zone and try new things while having fun at the same time.”
Hansen said he particularly enjoyed going kayaking and doing the ropes course. “Flying in the air (on the course) was scary at first, but later I decided it was the best part of the trip. The trip also gave me a chance to get to know my friends better, since I am new to Harker this year,” he added.
Grade 7 Students Take In Scenic and Historic Southwestern Sites
Grade 7 students started off their visit to the country’s scenic and historic national parks with a memorable visit to Arizona. There they enjoyed a jeep tour of Sedona, famous for its red rock formations and wildlife.
Next up was a visit to the Grand Canyon’s south rim, where students participated in an organized trust walk (listening to directions while walking with eyes closed) as they headed toward the rim of the canyon.
They also toured Monument Valley, known to many as “the eighth wonder of the world.” Monument Valley has been a significant place for centuries, and houses ruins that some believe belong to the mysterious Anasazi people who disappeared from the area hundreds of years ago.
This year, for the first time, the students took a brief break from hiking and sightseeing to visit the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, which is a state park in Utah. There they simply let loose, running, rolling and playing in the sand. Towards the end of the trip, the seventh graders traveled to Zion National Park to hike the Emerald Pools, Whistling Rock, and several other well-known trails.
“The national parks trip was an amazing experience, where we got to visit many different places. I’ll cherish all the fun and educational memories from this trip forever!” enthused student Shafieen Ibrahim. He noted that the blind trust walk in the Grand Canyon was a particularly “challenging and thrilling activity,” and an experience he will never forget.
Grade 8 Students Explore the Nation’s Capital During Journey to D.C.
Harker’s eldest middle schoolers have a newfound appreciation for the nation’s capital after experiencing life in Washington, D.C., firsthand on their unforgettable class trip.
Accompanied by Jennifer Gargano, assistant head of school for academic affairs, the group’s tour of the city began with a visit to the Jamestown Settlement, the first permanent English settlement in North America, and Colonial Williamsburg, an interpretation of a colonial American city. While there they visited the capitol, the court and the governor’s palace, as well as a variety of shops such as the wigmaker and the apothecary. Another highlight was participating in an interactive African-American music program held in a slave quarter, where students sang and danced alongside their guide.
On a more somber note, the group paid a visit to the Martin Luther King Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Iwo Jima U.S. Marine Corps memorials and Arlington Cemetery.
“All the chaperones were very proud of the entire grade 8 group as they were extremely respectful during our time at Arlington,” recalled Gargano. “Unbeknownst to us, a middle school group from Tamagawa (Harker’s sister school in Japan) was also visiting there and joined in our laying of the wreath ceremony,” she added.
There was also a visit to Ford’s Theater where students learned about what occurred on the day of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and were able to view the balcony where he was shot. The trip concluded with visits to, among other sites, Pamplin Park, one of America’s best preserved battlefields, the capitol building, and tours of the House of Representatives, the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court.
“I really enjoyed every part of the trip. Luckily, the government re-opened before we came, so we were able to visit all the planned stops on our itinerary. My favorite part was being a part of the wreath-laying ceremony because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity .… I learned so much about the history of our country,” recalled trip participant Megan Huynh.
A Fun Filled Week for Those Students Who Remained on Campus
Middle school students who were unable to attend the class trips were treated to lesson plans which ensured that they, too, had an exceptional week. Among the offerings for them were classes in current events and practical economics and finance, world cuisine, chemistry, engineering, and literary interpretations for the stage.
In the current events and economics offering students learned fundamentals such as inflation and deflation, interest, investing, taxation, and a “wealth” of other “valuable” resources. In the cooking class students brought out their inner chefs as they traveled the globe, studying cultures and foods of different countries. In chemistry, they were led through the “reactionary” world of chemistry by making slime, candy chromatography, Mentos and soda. Meanwhile, the engineering course allowed students to imagine themselves as the CFO or lead architect in charge of a huge construction project, designing, building and testing a toothpick bridge. Finally, in the literary offering students were able to take a classic literary piece and see it transformed into live theater.
“We had another successful trip week under our belts. It was an exciting and safe week for all the students, whether they stayed on campus or attended one of the class trips,” said Cindy Ellis, middle school head.