The Director's Cut
Emerald Connection, September 26, 2022
Last week, the Grade 6 students were in Crested Butte. I was fortunate enough to join them. Their fall trip serves two powerful educational purposes. First, it marks an entry point into Middle School life and expectations. The students work together as a team and overcome a variety of challenges. Students sent up tents as teams, debriefed to start and end each day, played team games, and dealt with variable weather. Andrea Noble, their advisory teacher, and I were both struck by how well they did. The expectation is that they will carry this teamwork forward throughout the year in all of their interactions, both informal and in the classroom.
Second, this trip allows for a deep dive into a scientific concept. The curriculum is provided by the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) in Gothic, just outside of Crested Butte. This scientific lab has been in continuous operation for close to 100 years and hosts both active field scientists and visiting student groups. This year, we focused on watersheds. Rather than detail all that our students experienced, I ask you to take a look at the blog that they maintained during the week. I will, however, share my highlights.
- Each day, we had the chance to interact with, and often help, a field researcher with their research. I partnered with 6th grader Conor Devin in classifying and comparing the macroinvertebrates found in two water samples from different sites in the same creek.
- We spent some time looking for marine fossils from the prehistoric ocean that covered Colorado. Not only did we find many fossilized shells at the RMBL site, Jake Myrtle and Grayson Heintz found more marine fossils back at our campsite, two watersheds away.
- I also found the games and simulations to be very thought provoking. We played a water cycle game that illustrated that not all drops of water move through the water cycle equally; some of us were literally stuck in the clouds (or glaciers or oceans). We also went through a choose-your-own-adventure style exploration of how some of the animals in our watershed experience life. The students had very interesting reflections on what they learned about challenges and choices the animals face.
- Finally, we had a number of “nature commercials” where we paused our programming to admire the natural world emerging around us. The storms that came through made for very dramatic views of Gothic Mountain and the last day brought waterfalls down the hillside, driving home how we began the week talking about what defines a watershed. We also had a “two moose day” when a large buck meandered across the RMBL site in the morning and a juvenile popped out of the willows while we tested water samples in the afternoon.
I look forward to getting into our own classrooms in the next few weeks and seeing where both teamwork and complex concepts are being explored further.