Just this past week, we began to kick off our spring expedition. During the first few days, students did a gallery walk with different artifacts and photographs. They made observations and made inferences about the relationship between the objects. “It’s water! Our expedition is water!” they whispered to each other. In the coming days we will be narrowing that focus and helping children build background knowledge about water pollution.
Throughout the expedition, students make repeated visits to the same spot in Rock Creek next to Peirce Mill. Rock Creek is polluted by stormwater waste and combined sewer overflow. Students will not only make observations of the water and the surrounding environment, but will also use this time to develop a relationship with this part of Rock Creek Park. A relationship with the creek will strengthen their motivation to advocate for it.
Of course, this expedition is largely driven by science standards about water, but equally important are two Expeditionary Learning Design Principles that support our repeated visits to Rock Creek:
“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 of future generations.
“Solitude and Reflection: Students and teachers need time alone to explore their own thoughts, make their own connections, and create their own ideas. They also need to exchange their reflections with other students and with adults.”
And so yesterday, in spite of the cold temperatures, armed with long underwear, multiple socks, clipboards, and firewood, we headed to Peirce Mill at Rock Creek Park. Todd, our adventure coordinator, took half of the class for a hike while I took them to find their contemplation spots. Last year, we did this expedition in the fall. Repeated visits allowed students to see the trees filled with green leaves, then colored leaves, and finally without leaves. Yesterday’s trip provided an exciting new view of Rock Creek–a creek surrounded with snow. It will be exciting to watch it evolve as we make visits through the spring and into June.
Students found contemplation spots and got to work drawing and writing what they see, hear, and feel. During our debrief, Tiffany later shared, “I felt calm.” Anna added, “The sounds of the creek made me feel calm and relaxed.” Fiona concluded, “It was so quiet here. It made me feel calm.”
Look for a list of upcoming trips to Rock Creek in the next week. We will need the support of many drivers to make the frequent small-group trips to our spots.