Spirit Week & TACO in Photographs

Experience the story of Spirit Week through the lenses of Cougar News Photography Interns Hayden F. ’20, Arielle B. ’21, and seniors Carly C. and Mason L. Their teacher, Donna Wilcox, was a fellow visual raconteur, chronicling Take A Child Outside Week. We would also like to thank Dr. Trout, Mrs. Trout and Mr. Lisk for contributing photos. Finally, we doff our hats to the senior class, who did primary colors proud by wearing red to victory in Color Wars 2018.

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raceforhome — Mason

A Week in the Life — Vol. 2

This edition presents the Upper School field trips, Take A Child Outside Week and polka-dotted Lower Schoolers celebrating Dot Day. It also features the work of the Cougar News Photography Interns: Calvin B. ’18, Carly C. ’19, Mason L. ’19, Lauren N. ’19 and Cristian T. ’18. Their talent and dedication is truly impressive, and we look forward to sharing more of their work with you throughout the year.

 

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A Classroom-Free Education at Outdoor School

By Luke B. ’23
Photos by Mr. O’Gorman

Last week, the entire sixth grade went on a fun-filled yet educational trip to Outdoor School at Shaver’s Creek, Penn State’s nature center. The class learned about how everything in nature is intertwined, as well as the importance of natural resources and their conservation. One of the main goals of the week was to achieve zero food waste, meaning that all the students ate all of the food on our plates, a goal we all achieved at the last meal.

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We took a “time machine” to the mid-1800s and observed how settlers used raw materials to fashion the vast majority of tools and other things they needed. The class was divided into groups, which took hikes, stopping along the way to play games related to the curriculum. These helped us learn more about the ins and outs of nature and how exactly it functions.

Students were taught about cycles, such as the water cycle, which explained the efficiencies of the natural world and how it works with creatures within it. Another highlight was the visit from some owl friends, thanks to the Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, during which many children got to see both large and small owls for the first time, and learn about how owls are affected by humans.

Everyone also had the opportunity to explore a nearby creek, searching for species whose sensitivity to their environment makes them excellent guides to determine the pollution level of the water.

The main events were topped off by a night walk, during which no flashlights were allowed. This activity was used to help our class understand the predators which have to rely mostly on their hearing to find food, as they need to be resourceful and careful to survive. Students also played games that helped us learn about how the amount of resources in an area determines its ability to accommodate certain species. This can result in population fluctuation, and one of the big factors in this is humans and our effect on the environment.

The trip wasn’t all hard work, however. The counselors, all Penn State students, came up with skits, songs, and more to entertain the class after a long day’s work before bedtime. Some of the most fun events included a rap battle and a dance-off, hosted by two counselors. There were also a few contests used to help the class learn a few interesting tidbits of information.

At the last night at Outdoor School, “The Lorax” was recited from memory by a few of the counselors, but not simply as a child’s story. It was a great tool used to help summarize the main message of Outdoor School: Humanity is indebted to nature, and should respect and treat it well, not just exploit it for its resources, and this generation needs to be the one to do that.

Our three days at Outdoor School were not only fun, but a great bonding experience for many classmates. It was an opportunity for us to enjoy one another and govern ourselves for a few days. We got to take a break from the traditional four-wall classroom and learn in a new environment, where not only science lessons were taught, but life-long ones.

Angling For Knowledge

Prospecting for critters with the zeal of pioneers panning for gold in 1850s California, the fifth grade immersed itself — literally — in Brubaker Run creek to explore in real life the science they’ve studied in the classroom.

Although for some students, zeal was tempered with a dollop of wariness.

Standing in the middle of the creek with water flowing just an inch below the top of her galoshes, Emily P. voiced a concern. “I don’t want any leeches on me!” she said.

“That’s never happened!” came Caroline Badri’s instant response. “You’ll be fine.”

The assistant head of Lower School joined T.J. O’Gorman, Meg Reed, Sue LeFevre and Science Department Chairwoman Laura Trout on the interdisciplinary field trip to Rader Park, where students tested the water quality of the stream, used their surroundings to inspire poetry, and considered our collective interdependence with a kind of role-playing game that cast the students as property developers.

To gauge the water quality, students took samples and measured a number of variables: the concentration of dissolved oxygen, nitrates and phosphates, the water’s temperature and turbidity, and the macroinvertebrate population. The latter is especially important because these organisms, such as crayfish, can only survive in a narrow range of water conditions and thus their presence or absence serves as a bellwether for the quality of the stream.

O’Gorman led the “Sum of Parts” exercise, in which students were given riverfront property and $20 million to spend developing it. For example, one entrepreneurial fifth-grader decked out his spread with a saw mill and lumber yard. After everyone’s developed their property, they discover that their parcels adjoin one another. As neighbors along “one big river, if they build something especially extravagant, they find they’re unwittingly polluting the river for everyone downstream,” O’Gorman said.

Students in Reed’s group sat in the sunshine, working on “writing inspired by nature,” she explained. This included a partner exercise called Human Camera, in which one student takes 5 seconds to observe a scene, then uses that mental snapshot to recreate in free verse or haiku the image he or she saw to constellate that picture in the partner’s mind.

As Reed was explaining this, Peachy L. ran up to share her poem with Reed, but issued a caveat first. “It doesn’t have any personification,” Peachy said apologetically.

“That doesn’t matter,” said Reed. “I’d love to hear anything you’ve written.”

“It’s wonderful for kids to get outside like this,” Badri said.