The three-day field trip that kicks off each year of middle school at Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School inspires the young teens to think deeply about issues of social justice and their own role in solving world problems. This year’s adventures took place at The Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont in Tennessee, and focused on the environment and the importance of conservation and sustainability.
Students conducted salamander monitoring research; explored a stream for invertebrates; and traversed eight miles of rugged terrain, including a 1.5-mile solo hike. Each day began with services around a campfire, and ended with gazing at nocturnal creatures and millions of stars in the night sky. “Being in nature made me think about how often we waste things like water and paper, and how to make better choices,” says seventh grader Karyn Lisker.
“It is one thing to read it out of the textbook, but we really got to experience it,” says sixth grader Sela Roth. Students are now developing strategies to improve their conservation efforts, specifically targeting food waste, electricity, and paper usage. “They’ve launched a year of authentic leadership,” says Head of School Cheryl Maayan.
These annual field trips, which come in three cycles, help students bond with one another and their teachers, and reinforce the school’s educational philosophy, says Ms. Maayan. “We want to bring learning to life for our students.” Next year’s outing will bring students to Heifer Ranch in Arkansas for lessons on hunger and poverty; civil rights will be the theme in 2016.