Cross-Curricular Learning: Survival Trip

There are many types of cross-curricular projects built into the Powhatan experience. Those projects enhance Deep Learning, which implies that students will follow a particular route of inquiry from top to bottom, rather than simply lightly sampling all the possible routes. We are committed to providing this type of robust learning environment throughout the school, and you see examples at all grade levels, including integration with Specials, such as Music, Art, World Language and even Sports.

Methods of teaching like this require copious amounts of teacher collaboration, but also rich student interaction. Deep Learning requires enthusiastic students in order to thrive, so cross-curricular projects engage the students at a more meaningful level. This interdisciplinary approach is best reflected by teamwork and strong student outcomes. The end result is mastery of the material, instead of just merely completing the assignment.

A terrific example of interdisciplinary teaching is the annual sixth grade Survival Trip. The trip is a cross-curricular effort between the English Department, the Science Department, and the NEAL program. It is a custom-designed 2-day overnight trip along the Shenandoah River that is organized by Upper School faculty and led by Mountain View Ltd., which specializes in teaching primitive living skills and survival activities.

The outdoor survival activities parallel the fiction adventure Hatchet, the first unit of study in sixth grade English.

“We are firm believers that students learn by doing,” says Upper School science teacher Mr. Ray Legge. “This trip in particular is a great example of the true value of experiential learning and cross-curricular learning. On the first day the sixth grade learned about water safety, how to build fires and traps, paddled in canoes, and set up camp along the river. This year the students worked on their whitewater paddling skills by repeatedly going through Compton rapids. Some of us got a little damp during the practice but all had a good time.”

cross-curricularThe students spend quality time in the outdoors and learn the self-sufficiency needed to stay in the outdoors by choice or by need. The program reinforces and expands on the classroom curriculum of the survival literature unit and the life science unit by offering insight into the history of the residents of the area and by demonstrating actual examples of the technology and culture of early local Native Americans. Specifically, the students learn how food is obtained in the wild, how to build friction fires, make tools, create string from plant material and practice archery.

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“They re-create a scene in the book during the trip where Brian, the main character, makes fire by gathering material in the woods,” recalls Mrs. Louise Jaffe, who teaches sixth grade English at Powhatan. “The students have been reading the book and the survival trip activities make the literature come alive for them.”

Other fun cross-curricular projects that immediately come to mind are Royston’s Regatta, a collaboration between art and history, the first grade Chinese New Year Celebration or engineering and art in fifth grade.

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