By PCY Principal, Debra Cradduck
Every year, the fourth grade students at Paradise Canyon have the opportunity to attend the highly anticipated Pilgrim field trip with their teachers and classmates. In preparation for this field trip, the students engage in a unit of study about traveling to California in the 1800’s. Mrs. Sandra Hong shared how the fourth grade classes take part in reading Two Years Before the Mast, a memoir written by Richard Henry Dana Jr., to fully engage in the experience that the field trip offers to the students. The memoir highlights the journey of a young man who signs up for a two-year voyage on the Brig Pilgrim. The story goes into depth about the struggle to travel to California, especially in the dead of winter. Upon closing out the unit, the students get the opportunity of a lifetime, as they experience firsthand what it would have been like to have been a voyager during that time.
True learning takes place when students take the content that is taught in the classroom and make authentic connections to their personal lives. The Pilgrim field trip allows the students to do just that. In an interview with fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Lori Arbucci, she shared: “This overnight field trip is a wonderful living history experience for our fourth graders. They sign on to the Brig Pilgrim as greenhands (inexperienced sailors) for a two year ‘voyage’ from Boston to Alta California in the 1830's to gather hides. Students work on problem-solving, teamwork, and communication while they sing chanteys, raise sails, hoist cargo, row long-boats, swab the decks, and stand night watch.” In essence, the students get to make the content come alive before their eyes as they participate in the activities that are designed to make them feel as though they are true voyagers. While students have lots of fun attending this field trip, it does require them to partake in their assigned roles and assume responsibility for the tasks given to them, and no role is taken lightly.
As the teachers at PCY have made strong efforts to create classrooms that focus on collaborative learning, it is an awesome opportunity for students to put those skills into practice. Ms. Anya Lloyd shares what a valuable experience it is for her students because of how students are asked to work in a collaborative environment where they become “problem solvers and independent thinkers.” In addition to the excellent teaching practice of creating opportunities for students to work collaboratively, this field trip really highlights what it means to have a student centered experience. During the whole field trip, the students - rather than the teachers, become the experts. The teachers become the guide on the side, instead of the sage on the stage, as they allow students to explore the concepts rather than teach them how things should be done. Ms. Danielle Celestino explains, “It is such an amazing trip because the students are challenged to complete tasks and work upon the ship with little intervention from adults. What's great is that the students really rise to the occasion. There is such growth in each individual child, it is wonderful to see!”
This field trip will be a memory that our students will reflect on for years to come. It teaches the importance of teamwork, collaboration, and creativity, while creating an opportunity for students to learn and bond with their teachers and classmates. We feel fortunate to have found such a great program that allows our students to maximize their learning, while finding enjoyment as they work with their peers!