6th Grade Survival Trip

“It’s hard to make a fire in the rain.” – Harrison, 6th Grade Powhatan School Student.


Even spending the day in a down pour did not dampen the spirits of Powhatan School’s annual 6th Grade Survival Trip. The trip is a hallmark of the Upper School experience and is a cross-curricular effort between the English Department, the Science Department and the NEAL program.

The 6th Grade Survival Trip 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.

6th Grade Survival Trip

6th Grade Survival Trip

“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 that we need to get kids outside to enhance what we are doing in the classroom.”

On the first day the 6th Grade ferried gear across the river, paddled in canoes and kayaks, learned about the local ecology and set up camp along the river.

he 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.

The outdoor survival activities parallel the fiction adventure Hatchet, the first unit of study in 6th Grade English.

“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 6th Grade English at Powhatan. “The students have been reading the book and the survival trip activities make the literature come alive for them.

“It’s hard to make a fire in the rain,” says 6th grader Harrison.

There were plenty of other examples of how the trip related to the book.

“In the book there was a big tornado and the lake got rough, so when I was in the canoe I remembered it when we went through the rapids,” says Emily, another 6th grade student. Her classmate Max chimed in with; “we learned ‘you eat what you catch’ – just like Brian did in the book.”

How did it start?

“Back in 1998 I was teaching 6th grade English and we were reading Hatchet by Gary Paulson,” says Mrs. Kathleen Hobbs, an Upper School Science and Language Arts teacher. “My son completed a primitive skills camp with Michael Sottosanti and he loved it. We are always looking at how to combine cross-curricular studies and decided to bring the program to Powhatan. It fits wonderfully into the NEAL program and our outdoor education program, in addition to the combination of 6th Grade English and Science.”

Established in 1948, Powhatan School is a Kindergarten-8th grade private school accredited by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools and is a member of both the National Association of Independent Schools and Independent Education. Powhatan School opened the 2011-12 school year with an enrollment of 233 students. Powhatan serves families in Clarke County, Frederick County, Western Loudoun County, Warren County, Winchester City and the panhandle of West Virginia. Powhatan is a private school located near Purcellville VA. Powhatan is a private school near Round Hill VA. Powhatan is a private school near Waterford VA. Powhatan is a private school near Upperville VA. Powhatan is a private school near Winchester VA. Powhatan is a private school near Stephens City VA. Powhatan is a private school near Berryville VA. Powhatan is a private school near Charles Town WV. Powhatan is a private school near Kearneysville WV. Powhatan is a private school near Front Royal VA.

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