teaching that we all have stewardship for the world

May 10, 2012

Oceans cover nearly three-quarters of the planet’s surface, yet scientists estimate no more than 5% of the oceans have been explored. At Walden School, stewardship for the world is a cornerstone of learning and every day students think about how their experiences are impacting the world around them. Science teacher Drew Gagne heads the Outdoor Education program at Walden and led a trip of fifth graders to Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI) from April 23-27. Students confronted issues that deepened their understanding of the marine environment that helps support life on this planet.

Island hikes, snorkeling (day and night), tide pooling, kayaking, and a one-day beach excursion immersed Walden students in a wide variety of disciplines such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, ecology, geology, and marine conservation.  Along with these activities, they also applied their knowledge of the scientific method in marine biology labs studying algae, plankton, invertebrates, sharks, and marine mammals.

Isabella Quispe (Class of 2013) explained, “I liked the snorkeling because I got to see things that I had never seen before.” For many students, this was the first time that they had ever snorkeled. Fifth grader Paul Patterson said, “I especially liked the night snorkel because I got to see bioluminescence.” Some organisms naturally emit light through a chemical reaction of luciferin (a pigment) and oxygen. This occurs mainly in marine vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as microorganisms and terrestrial animals, like fireflies.

Gagne has created an experiential science program for Walden students where carefully chosen experiences are supported by reflective practices, critical analysis and a synthesis of information gathered. Walden believes that authentic learning happens when students are engaged intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically. The week-long trip to CIMI supports students as they ask questions, investigate their world, experiment, and solve problems. By assuming responsibility for their own learning, a Walden fifth grader constructs personal meaning from the CIMI trip and develops a curiosity for future learning.

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