Trips Enhance Curriculum and Connect Students with the Natural Environment

Spring is a special time for Lower School students at Pacific Northern Academy in Anchorage, Alaska, because it’s when their much-anticipated overnight field trips — designed to enhance the curriculum — get underway.

First graders study oceanography before visiting the SeaLife Center in Seward to hone observation skills, participate in hands-on marine science programs, and focus on intertidal creature adaptations and seabird survival techniques. They also spend the night in sleeping bags among the Center’s seabirds, Steller sea lions, and harbor seals. “I learned more about what was happening in the ocean,” remembers Ben Fox. “I especially liked looking at the octopuses.”

As part of their overnight stay at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai, second graders support and enrich their space unit studies with rocket building and launching, planetarium demonstrations, and team building exercises. On the trip to Kenai, they may even do some activities to complement their geology studies, including gold panning and nature walks.

Third graders focus on the properties of water, the water cycle, and the ecology of the coastal and marine ecosystems before traveling to the far side of Kachemak Bay to visit the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. Highlights have included whale watching, tidepooling, eating raw oysters, and viewing plankton under a microscope. Brooke Engelke’s favorite memory of last year’s trip: “We learned so much about the sealife animals.”

“These hands-on experiences make learning real and exciting,” says Head of School Arnie Cohen. “They provide opportunities to grow self-reliance and create strong bonds among students while exposing them to Alaska’s amazing natural environment.”

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