One of my favorite things about working at an independent school is the freedom to pause and do something different. Our school demonstrates its value of experiential learning by dedicating the week before spring break to learning outside the traditional classroom walls.
The Beginning School (Preschool and Kindergarten) calls this week "Wonder Week." They have less choice and rotate through different themes each day. The Lower School (grades 1-5) aptly named their week "Experiential Days." After reading descriptions of various teacher-led options, students rate their top choices. Some years, students get their top choice; other times they don't -- A great learning experience in and of itself! A student's Experiential Days are all themed around one topic (animals, sports, making a movie, sheep to sweater, Spanish language and culture) and involve more off campus field trips. The Middle School has "Breakaway" adding the B to the school-wide "Web Week." Many of their trips have an overnight experience and involve leaving Portland.
My division, the Upper School, returns to the W with "Winterim." Similar to the Middle School many "Winterims" involve leaving Portland (or the US) and involve overnight experiences. However, there is a distinct shift in ownership at this level. It is a junior-year requirement to propose, plan, and lead a Winterim. My role as a teacher shifts to advising rather than planning and leading. The balance between ensuring a positive experience for all and releasing the control to allow for success or failure is tricky, but usually has positive payouts.
Two years ago, I chaperoned a group exploring the forts along the Oregon coast. Last year, I spent the week learning how to Become a Warrior through parkour, fencing, tae kwon do, archery and horseback riding. This year, I advised a group interested in Molecular Gastronomy. We learned how to create fancy foods using chemistry. We turned fats into powder and liquids into spherical or noodle-shaped gels. We made a variety of foams and used liquid nitrogen to ice cream and crackers that make you look like a smoke-breathing dragon.
|My students creating fruity noodles|
Check out the posts by Magnolia and Kaleia to learn about their experiences during Wonder Week and Experiential Days.