DCD 5th graders are tired today. But it’s a good kind of tired, because they just spent three action packed days and two lesson-filled nights in Nature’s Classroom out in Groton, MA. The focus of the 5th grade science curriculum is on ecology and environmental science, so these days spent in nature represented a great capstone to the year. There were lessons in outdoor skills including shelter construction, orienteering, and fire building and safety as well as pond exploration where students had a ball catching frogs and crayfish.

While the science curriculum provided the backdrop to this experiential learning trip, the lessons in social and emotional learning were just as purposeful and important to the overall student experience. Built into the day’s activities were team building exercises, skits, and community time around the fire (yes, s’mores included). This time for connection outside of the classroom was an excellent opportunity for students and teachers to get to know each other in very different ways.

For some students, this was their first time away from home and were slower to embrace this new environment. “One of the things I observed and loved about this group, though, is that they were great caretakers of each other”, commented science teacher, Sue Shirley. “They were very in tuned to their classmates needs and feelings.” Sue particularly enjoyed the cooperation, communication, compromising and commitment the students exhibited when they took part in the “whale watch” team building exercise. It takes place on a platform which is a giant teeter-totter that isn’t centered on the midpoint. The children had to work together to keep it perfectly balanced for as long as they could, collaboratively shifting their weight. After some significant practice, one of the groups was so proud of the fact that they lasted in a balanced state on the platform for almost two minutes!

And listen to this parents, your children really do know how to prep and clean up a room! They swept floors, made beds with fitted sheets, and even cleaned up the bathrooms upon their departure. Lots of lessons learned and shared on this great trip into Nature’s Classroom.