Experiential Learning at Salmonberry School

  • Mon Oct 16th, 2017 10:06am
  • Life

Salmonberry School believes that learning is most powerful when it is experienced through real life hands-on experiences. This belief in the potential of deeper learning continues to draw Salmonberry teachers and students to explore spaces beyond their classroom walls and prioritize firsthand encounters with the larger world. Through experiential learning Salmonberry realizes its holistic vision by pursuing integrated curriculum and dissolving some of the boundaries and limits that are created by dividing learning into disciplines, subjects, courses, class periods and prescribed learning outcomes.

This fall, students in Salmonberry’s grades 4-6 class have been learning about ecology, geology, natural history and many cultural and scientific aspects of the Salish Sea. This study has included a series of field trips and projects with Earthways Nature Education leader Cody Beebe. The field trips have included on-island hikes, games and studies as well as overnight field trips. Students have learned about watersheds as they hike along a glacially fed creek. They’ve learned about natural resources by carving wood, eating native edible plants and building simple shelters.

Recently, this Salmonberry class also joined Canoe Island French Camp’s Science Educator Max Thomas on an overnight trip to Sucia Island. Here, students explored and learned about the amazing geology of this unique island as they climbed among the Chuckanut Sandstone formation of the China Caves. They learned about the sedimentary rock of the Nanaimo formation, and they learned about many aspects of forest and marine ecology with hands-on, field-based activities.

In an even larger-scale project, Salmonberry’s grades 1-3 class has partnered with YMCA’s Camp Orkila to establish a “Field Station” where students will spend up to one full day each week connecting with a particular and special part of the forest. Students will bring books and materials and in addition to science will also be incorporating all aspects of the curriculum including art, math, Language Arts and physical movement. Lead Primary Teacher Linda Henning brings a wealth of experience in Expeditionary Learning to her vision of place-based learning.

The experiential learning at Salmonberry is not all nature-based. As the Intermediate Grades students study cultures and belief systems of the world this year, they will head to Seattle to see Asian Art and Japanese Gardens. They will visit a Buddhist Temple, a Hindu cultural center and an Islamic Mosque. And in the Spring, the sixth-grade students will once again head to New York City to learn about immigration, art, social justice and so much more. Sixth-graders also spend approximately 3-4 hours per week for 6-8 weeks outside the classroom pursuing formal internships with adults in the community.

Importantly, Salmonberry’s work outside the classroom has drawn our students into a wide range of community partnerships over the years. These partnerships have included project-based activities with The Orcas Senior Center, The SJC Land Bank, The Orcas Food Bank, KWIAHT, The Chamber Music Festival, The Indian Island Marine Health Observatory, The Bureau of Land Management, The SJC Council and many more local businesses and non-profits.

There is a tendency in contemporary education that students and teachers are sequestered away into artificial learning environments and separated from their community and the very direct discoveries that can enchant learning with a personal sense of connection, meaning and wonder. Salmonberry’s teachers are out to correct this imbalance.

According to Salmonberry’s Head of School Paul Freedman, “When students not only learn about content through books, lectures and discussion, but live it through first hand experiences, this learning becomes more real, more relevant, more visceral; it is internalized and more deeply remembered. As an ancient Chinese philosopher said, ‘Tell me and I will forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand.’”

Salmonberry School invites any interested parents, kids or curious others to attend their community drop- in day on Friday, Oct. 20. RSVP is requested: info@salmonberryschool.org.