As with many parts of the school year, Covid was a party pooper for our beloved Outdoor Ed (OE) trips. I’ve talked about these before; one in the spring, one in the fall. The goal for the fall focuses on team building and working together, and the the spring trip focuses more on making memories with friends that may be going to different schools next year. Thanks to our supportive administration, our creative and flexible special area teachers, and the resilient group of students we have, we were able to reimagine our two trips this year into On-Campus Outdoor Ed (OCOE). We kept the spirit of the trips alive, focusing on similar themes for each one. We were blessed with two beautiful days this year, one in October and one in April.
At this point, our students had been together for a little more than a month, and when I say together, I mean that literally. (Trinity School‘s Covid safety protocol requires students to stay in their homerooms for the entire day with the exception of recess every day and PE three days a week. All the teachers travel to the classrooms to be with the students there. I am so proud of how they had adapted to this new school year! Masks on all the time, not changing classes, eating in the classroom, not seeing friends in other classes during recess, and really, just being around the same 16 classmates all day, every day, every week.) Through several different rotations over the course of the day, the team building activities the coaches planned for the students involved different kinds of communication and the mantra of, “Not me, We.” Students learned what it was to make choices that would benefit their group more than themselves. In addition to the team building activities, students had a chance to play a big game of Capture the Flag on the field. Art teacher, Pat Kerner, led the the students in a lesson to make art pieces from objects found in nature after the style of artist, Andy Goldsworthy. Math teacher, Kelly Swanton, led a yoga session in Discovery Woods We wrapped up the day with the activity, The Reflection Circle. Being able to do this was as important to the teachers as it was to the students. We knew what these kids were missing. Most of us have done several OE trips, and The Reflection Circle is a powerful activity.
The Reflection Circle
We come together as a whole group and get into a big circle and sit down facing each other. Coach Brian instructs everyone to close their eyes and then one group of students stand outside the circle. The students walk around the circle and touch the shoulder of their classmates or teachers in response to different prompts: “You’ve seen this person be courageous. You’ve seen this person be kind. This person has been a good friend. This person has made you laugh. This person is a good role model.” The adults participate as well, and this is an example of how our time with the students at their activities pays off. We have seen the kindness, the courage, the risk-taking, the merriment that others might not notice in someone.
For our spring OCOE we combined regular OE activities with preparation for our upcoming Fifth Grade Olympics. Students had time to start creating their team t-shirts and chariots. Jog strollers have been the most popular chariot choice over the years, but for the first time in seven years, I had three different vehicles for each Olympic group: a job stroller, a red wagon, and a snow sled attached to a skateboard! Three very different chariots for three very different teams. The pressure was on because the Fifth Grade Olympics of the Body was just a week away! Again, our PE coaches, art teacher, and our Fifth Grade Team all pitched in to give the students a great day.
Fifth Grade Olympics
Each year for our Olympics unit the students form different homeroom Olympic teams based on a city that has hosted the Olympic Games. Students research their assigned Olympics through several tasks: creating an Olympic banner, a torch, an original mascot, and a bulletin board sharing the information they’ve learned. The culminates with Olympics of the Body and Olympics of the Mind. The chariot building and race are high points of the unit. Students bring a vehicle from home, decorate it to represent their Olympic cities, and race them down the length of our PE field.
It would have been easy to just give the students a pajama/read-in/game time kind of day in lieu of the two trips that got canceled, but that didn’t sit right with anyone. Several meetings were had discussing lots of different options. It was a true collaboration between the Fifth Grade Team, the special area teachers, and the administration. That we had the option to reimagine these events and give the students these experiences was such a blessing. The teachers knew what the students missed out on not going on a traditional OE trip, and a few of them with older siblings have heard stories of OE trips in the past, but the Trinity Class of 21-22 will be able to tell stories of OCOE that other classes (hopefully) won’t.