Why not just skip the beach trips?

In my first year at McAuliffe, I did what I could to attend every class meeting and as many field trips as possible. 

Five years later, there are still a few that I have yet to experience and I look forward to those opportunities. 

This week, I joined Andrew’s and Fran’s class on their beach trip. The overnight trips offer a window into what we do, who we are, and why our philosophy is so vitally important in a society that increasingly quantifies learning and growth through standardized assessments.

Watching our students as they work in teams to determine the ideal camping spot, what tools they need to prepare their campsite is truly a sight to see. Parents and staff resist the urge to jump in and help and offer thought provoking questions to the students instead. Holding back isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds but the end result is so worth it! You see the confidence grow in the student’s eyes and hear the satisfaction in their cheers once camp has been set.

This week I saw and heard that. I also saw children engage in spontaneous play. Several students broke away from the group and gathered the few remaining students so that the entire class was quickly playing a game that had few rules and everyone was a winner. There was laughter and joy and lot of happy faces and it occurred to me that community building rich with empathy and candor was happening right in front of me.

Why do we engage in learning beyond the walls of our classrooms? And outside the gates of our school? In addition to the study of hard sciences such oceanography, astronomy, and some of the softer subjects like culinary arts, project management, and environmental studies, students are engaged in higher order levels of critical thinking and problem solving when they are outside and tasked with making connections to the learning and the world around them.

One of the wonderful things about learning is that we can all learn and grow, and learning happens wherever we are…if we are open to the experience. At McAuliffe we foster this idea and model it throughout the year for our student and adult learning community! We believe that this is critical, particularly if we want students to embrace this notion as opposed to the false idea that learning only exists in isolation…in classrooms…in school buildings…but that is a topic for another day.

Today we are reminded of the importance of community building, collaboration, and developing empathy through important works like Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, Duckworth’s Grit/resilience, or Dweck’s Mindsets. And this is work that we have engaged in for 45 years at McAuliffe. We focus on the whole child because we believe this empowers the child to grow and make decisions and to thrive in the world. This work is essential for our children.

The beach trips cause me to slow down and look at the deeper meaning of why we teach children and how I can better support our faculty and students as the principal of this incredible school. It clarifies the value of learning regardless of location and that learning applies to everyone. These trips are a concrete example of personal growth for our students as they become increasingly independent, and continue to develop their own voice and self-confidence while working interdependently with their classmates.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Rick

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