The sixth grade went on their annual Survival Trip this week. Yesterday students and faculty headed out on the Shenandoah River for the canoeing/kayaking portion of the trip. They returned to campus and camped overnight under the stars in Ibit’s Courtyard in the middle of the school.

The Survival Trip is based on the book Hatchet by author Gary Paulsen. It is the first book students read in Mrs. Jaffe’s sixth grade English class. It chronicles the path back to civilization by Brian, the main character of the book, after he survives a plane crash in the wilderness. Brian’s ability to make fire is a pivotal part of the book and the students learn how to make fire using items found in nature. While Brian remained alone in nature for 54 days, our students spend two beautiful days kayaking, canoeing, making arrowheads and blow darts, and practicing archery.

“It is important to try and keep as many of the unique learning experiences within our curriculum as we possibly can,” says Mr. Legge, an Upper School Science Chair. “I liked camping out in the middle of campus and breakfast on the Crocker Conservancy was a real upgrade from a typical campsite!”


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“One of the things I love about Powhatan is the way we bring in experts in various fields across campus,” comments Mr. Legge. “We are alway very grateful to Michael Sottosanti, a primitive skills expert, to join us. The kids always enjoy his teaching and instructions on how to start a fire in the wild. He is able to share his deep knowledge of survival techniques and his love of local history that really engages young minds.”


“Having time set aside in the afternoon to debrief the experience with Mrs. Jaffe is terrific,” comments Mr. Legge, the Upper School Science Chair. “The connections that students make to the activities are very real and the conversations are much deeper.”

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.

The Crocker Conservancy:

We are continually using the lens of NEAL (Nature-Enhanced Approach to Learning) as we create, amend, and reflect upon our curriculum. The Crocker Conservancy adds a whole new dimension to the scope of the NEAL program, allowing for the land directly behind the school to become an outdoor laboratory for hands-on experiential learning.

The Crocker Conservancy is made up of the 47-acres located in the back of our campus. There are three main habitats on the Crocker Conservancy, including a wetland habitat, warm season grass and wild flower meadow and hardwood forests. Each unique learning space offers real-world opportunities for students to learn and discover.


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