THE WORLD OUTSIDE
Small Steps Lead to Great Leaps
LEARNING BEYOND BORDERS: LOWER SCHOOL STUDENTS DISCOVER THE WORLD OUTSIDE
Between March and the end of May, all ower school grades embarked on trips tied to their curricula: K-2nd grades focused on the outdoor environment, 3rd and 4th featured science and history, and the 5th-grade trip to Strasbourg marked students' first international journey as a
class. The trips kick off with a simple overnight, gradually increasing in number of days and complexity. Their
collective goal is to foster autonomy, develop students'
connections to their local and global communities, and
ultimately awaken their sense of responsibility.
The program begins in kindergarten. At the end of May,
K students traveled just one hour north of San Francisco
to Marin's Slide Ranch. Thanks to hands-on learning,
teamwork and physical activity, the children developed a
stronger sense of self, and respect for the natural envi-
ronment. According to the 1st-grade team of teachers,
Tuolomne builds upon that outdoor education: "For city
children it's an opportunity to go to a rural area and
enjoy nature; to appreciate living things in their natural
habitats; to live collectively with their peers; and to be-
come more independent." Bear Valley then gives second
graders (pictured at right) the opportunity to learn how to
ski with the motivation of their peers, and to experience
water in its many states. For some it marks the first time
they see snow!
The 3rd- and 4th-grade trips cast a spotlight on science
and history, respectively. This year our third graders spent
four days at Monte Toyon in the Santa Cruz foothills,
hiking the local trails and learning about the coastal red-
wood microclimate. Students made fire by creating fric-
tion with a pump drill in a wooden base, viewed Jupiter
through a telescope, and participated in a beach cleanup
and tidepool exploration. In turn, our fourth graders
lived the life of 49ers at Coloma in March—panning for
gold, building shelter, and baking cornbread over coals.
They learned about the ecology of the surrounding foot-
hills and how it was devastated by the influx of miners
during the second half of the 19th century. Students then
made an action plan to do their part in protecting the
environment, but not before challenging themselves on
the high ropes course.
Fourth-grade students returned to school after
their trip to Coloma with an ignited passion to
develop their own environmental action plans
and projects. Students collected shoes for those
in need, developed projects to save the seals,
and organized local park and beach clean-ups.
They presented their ideas at the Lower School
Sustainability Celebration on April 29.
While the K to 4th-grade trips take place in
California with parent chaperones, the 5th-
grade trip to Strasbourg marks the first time
students travel internationally as a group, in the
company of only their teachers. The journey
to Strasbourg is not only a validation of up to
eight years of French immersion, it is also a
rare opportunity for students to live in a foreign
country with a family for two weeks. By the
end of 5th grade, students will have hosted
French correspondents and had a chance to
live away from home, becoming more confident and self-assured in terms of both language
and how to navigate another part of the world.
4th graders panning for gold at Coloma, March 2016