Eighth graders headed to Maryland last week for a very special tour of the Antietam Battlefield. The faculty originally planned the field trip for last Spring, but the pandemic intervened. They were also treated to a special guest who needs little introduction within the Powhatan School community; Mr. Dick Bell. The longtime master history teacher was at his best, giving an insightful personal tour of the battlefield and engaged students in one of his memorable lessons on events that shaped our country.
“Mr. Bell’s amazing and wide ranging knowledge of the Battle of Antietam in all of its aspects– the terrain, the battlefield commanders, the political ramifications of the Battle and its aftermath– plus his infectious passion for History made for such a memorable day last Friday. Mrs. Hobbs, our eighth grade students, and I could not have enjoyed ourselves more!”
~Mr. Peebles, Head of School
Mr. Bell began his teaching career at Powhatan in 1973, and spent 43 years teaching history in the Upper School. His dedication and service to his students is renowned and he is a model of excellence in teaching.
Mr. Bell is most fondly known as the director of the annual eighth grade Shakespeare Play. He began directing the Shakespeare play in 1982 with the production of The Tempest. Over three decades of passion and enthusiasm for Shakespeare that has impacted hundreds of students, has put Mr. Bell in a category that makes his name synonymous with Shakespeare at Powhatan School, matched only by his beloved predecessor and founder of Powhatan’s Shakespeare productions, former Headmaster Mr. Donald Niemann. Mr. Bell retired from teaching in 2016.
The pandemic has caused us to hit pause on a number of our regular off-campus experiential learning opportunities. We recognize the importance of field trips from both an academic standpoint, as well as the positives of the social interactions these events bring to children.
As we look to the final two months of the school year we are optimistic in revisiting some of the trips we cancelled earlier in the year. “We are evaluating each possible trip to see if there is an opportunity to get students off-campus for learning,” says Mr. Holgate, the Upper School Director. “Even condensing trips into one day or keeping the outside portion of a trip might allow us to add a trip back onto the calendar. We are looking at this from a safety standpoint and adhering to the protocols we have in place. That’s an exciting opportunity considering the lockdowns of the past year.”
Not to be ignored is the creative activities that we’ve put together this year in an effort to keep a portion of these learning experiences on the calendar.
Using the Natural Resources of our 90-Acre Campus
We have had to be creative in our planning and activities through this unique year. One of the ways we have continued to provide hands-on learning experiences is to utilize the natural resources of our 90-acre campus. We’ve recreated field trips and created new opportunities for students to learn surrounded by our spectacular wooded campus.
We are firm believers that students learn by doing. The sixth grade Survival Trip in particular is a great example of the value of experiential learning and cross-curricular learning. This trip combines English, history, science, and sports all in one. We know how important experiential learning is for students, so as a faculty we have tried to find creative ways to keep as many of these extracurricular activities on the schedule.
“Would we have preferred to be off-campus – sure – but I am so glad we were able to use the natural resources on our campus to make it happen for the kids.” ~Mr. Legge, Upper School Science Chair
We felt because it takes place outside in nature that we had a good chance of moving forward with it. With COVID in mind we decided to pivot and split the trip into two days.
The outdoor survival activities parallel the fiction adventure Hatchet, the first unit of study in sixth grade English. We decided to hold the first day on campus and complete the survival skills training portion on the Crocker Conservancy. It ended up being the perfect location for the activity.
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.