Taking School on the Road


Writing while en route from DC to NY:

We’ve taken school away from campus this past week. Poughkeepsie Day School always has believed in experiential learning, and being immersed in a new place with teacher and classmates can’t help but be a learning experience.

Our sixth and seventh graders and their teachers have spent the week at one of the Nature’s Classroom sites. Our group opened the spring school season for them- and that meant this year’s group holds the PDS record for having the coldest trip week in PDS middle school history. With their teachers, the students have been learning about science, history, how to care about each other and the environment, and how to connect with each other. We like working with the Nature’s Classroom organization because they share the same values as our community, and have a dedicated group of teachers who love working with students and have high energy and fun ideas.

One night, the teachers used lines from the journals the students were keeping, to compose this found poem about the classes they took that day:

A Found Poem about classes
Today was amazing

I loved making my face feel perfect

I fed my face with fruits

The soothing cold moisturizer on my face

I fed my face food

Yum, yum

Interesting facial features, followed by a dramatic response

Tasty food makes skin smooth

Red, hot, embarrassed cheeks

The wind hit my face as I walked through the mountains, peacefully as the sky

A lonely rock sat on the frozen water

In Nature’s Classroom, I went to a Haiku death match; it was really really fun

I felt the warmth of my finger as I crossed them, hoping the marble would make its way down the roller coaster

Round and round, passing the endless turns then suddenly we come to a stop

I built a roller coaster that smelled good

The sweet taste of kiwi brushing my tongue

The sweet smell of pineapple and the horrible taste of pomegranate skin

Sweet taste of the amazing apple lightly touching my tongue

Tension and strain are unrelenting; the metal groans and twists

As the stone drops, my heart sinks

The bridge sags

Everything is falling

Two fell in and all at once it fell to the floor

The loud crashing noise of pasta hurts my ears

Feel the squid blood ooze through my hair

Holding the dead and lifeless heart of a squid lying right in front of me

It feels weird and I can put my hand right into it

I listen for a splat, but all I hear is the swoosh of the parachute


Slowly falling down to the ground, landing safe and sound

White sphere falls

Yellow explosion follows

Yolk splashing in the sky like lightning

Warm mint and citrus tea filling up the room with a joyful smell

The smell of mint in the air

Anxious to drink it

This is not fair

Room crowded with the smell of tea and sweets

The scent of citrus and mint in the air

The warm tea washed down my throat giving my insides a hug

The burning citrus tea helped my raw throat

We made mint and citrus tea and it tasted and smelled so good

A wild cup of tea…it was divine

I sipped it down and it was sublime

You can read more, and enjoy an Animoto slide show of each day.

There are lots of ways to visit Washington, DC, and our eighth grade trip seeks to take advantage of making connections between the US history curriculum and our school values. Over the years, the trip has had some constants– doing some service, and student-led, not tour-guide led, monument tours are two examples. If we can, we make connection with an elected official or appointed official, or someone in an NGO.We also have found a couple of favorite eating spots, and we are proud of our step/mile count since we do so much of the trip on foot. (Thirty-one miles as of this writing– and we are not quite home yet).

We also add new things each year. This year we spent a night in Baltimore and visited the aquarium. It was a light-hearted way to start the trip. We ended on a more solemn note, since our last site was Arlington National Cemetery. Each night the students journal and each day also has a found poem composed from journal lines. This is the moving found poem from our serious day of service and the cemetery:

March 26, 2015

Today was a good and long day.

We were all pretty tired from the previous days.

We did so much today and were really productive.

We didn’t do as much walking and got to help to community.

We all woke up early to go to Subway to get some sub sandwiches for lunch.

First, we went to the food bank, at which my group sorted out over 700 bags.

It was exceptionally fun because I love sorting stuff in an orderly fashion.

The warehouse was MASSIVE!

We had to sort different types of frozen items into about 5 boxes.

It was a little intimidating at first, but then we got into a working rhythm and we worked fast and efficiently.

I felt great knowing that I helped out.

We went out to the Arlington National Cemetery, which was interesting and thought provoking.

It was kind of sad because there were tons of graves.

The graves seemed to go on and on, and it was an extraordinarily powerful sight.

The view from JFK’s burial site was breathtaking, and it showed the skyline of DC.

There were also beautiful quotes engraved on stone by John F. Kennedy.

It was really amazing to see the salutes for the Tomb of Unknown Soldier.

I can’t even explain how amazing it was to see how professional and precise these guards were, all the way down to their walk, which was steady, almost like something on wheels.

There were a lot of deep words and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was humbling. I will remember this forever.

I couldn’t believe that there was so much emotion.

I saw a side to my friends I’d never seen before. Deep feelings and thoughts, just being surrounded by so many dead people who had served our country.

I had a lot of fun in DC with all my friends, I wish it lasted a little longer.

I can’t wait to drag my entire family back to DC to tell them all of the amazing things I have learned on this trip.

You can see photos from the trip and read more poems and details.

Both groups are heading home and then off for spring break. Many thanks to families for supporting this program with your trust and enthusiasm. For some students, this marks the first time away from home. Once that threshold has been crossed, the entire world is open to them!

And of course, many, many thanks to the dedicated and caring teachers who accompanied the students. These trips originated through teacher ideas and enthusiasm. It is their commitment to the way we believe student learn: through community, immersive experiences and student-centered teaching that makes the trips successful and worthwhile.

This entry was posted in Learning is active..., Learning is deliberate..., Learning is permeable..., Learning is relevant, Values Collaboration, Values Connection, Values Courage, Values Curiosity and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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