“The trees were too big for me, but we did not stop trying.”

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At 9:00 this morning, armed with sunbutter sandwiches (ah nut allergies), 50 second graders boarded the bus to Rock Creek Park for our first adventure of the year. There, they hiked, found quiet contemplation spots to observe and journal, and built shelters in the woods using found sticks, leaves, and bark.

One of the principles of Expeditionary Learning is for students to grow a relationship with the natural world. “A direct and respectful relationship with the natural world refreshes the human spirit and teaches the important ideas of recurring cycles and cause and effect.  Students learn to become stewards of the earth and future generations.”

On the 23rd day of school, today’s adventure certainly refreshed the spirit.

As we went into the woods to find places to begin building, we stumbled upon something amazing–Jener’s fairy house from last year’s trip was still there!  As a team, we discussed what one should do when finding something that is not yours.  Could we extend Jener’s fairy house? Maybe add a porch? Could we use his split golf balls and broken glass garden for our own fairy houses?  Ultimately, students decided to honor and preserve Jener’s work and instead to build a fairy city, building more houses nearby.

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Jener’s original fairy house from last year.

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Other friends chose to build shelters that could house people.  After a discussion of resources and how access to different types of local resources impact the types of shelters that people make, friends got to work finding fallen tree branches, bark, and leaves to build shelters.

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Teams organized themselves in different ways. Some ran around looking for sticks that they could carry on their own.  Others called across the woods, “Hey! Come help me find lift this log–I can’t do it alone!” Still others delegated. Leo told his team, “I’m going to work on karate chopping this rotting log.  Then you guys can use it to fill in the gaps.”

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Griffin organized a search party. “I’m heading out without a compass to find sticks,” he let his team know, “So if we lose each other, use this signal, ‘Ca-caw! Ca-caw!'”

Mostly, friends saw that building a shelter from found resources would require working as a team.

As we walked into the woods, Anna predicted, “We’re going to build a huge shelter. I just know it! We have a strong team.  Me, my grandparents, Maddison, Maddison’s dad, Anthony.  It’s going to be huge.”

Later, Anthony reflected, “I had to have a lot of courage today.  I saw a tree that was huge.  There was no way I could lift it.  But I tried anyway.  And then I found some friends like Tiffany.  And together, we were a team. And we carried the tree so far to build a huge shelter.”

Fiona, holding hands with Chelsy, shared, “My favorite part of today was that I got to work with friends that I usually don’t work with. It means I have more new friends.”

“Everyone on the team worked together,” Giovanni reminded us, “That’s how we were able to do it today.”

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