Designed to inspire critical thinking, build bonds and collaboration among students, and offer experiential learning opportunities, Marymount of Santa Barbara’s fall student trips are a rite of passage that students look forward to year after year.
Marymount varies its trips to provide middle school students with a range of experiences, learning opportunities and challenges. Language immersion and community service trips abroad alternate with trips that are closer to home.
This year, Marymount seventh- and eighth-graders set off for Monterey and San Francisco, while the sixth-grade class continued a tradition of visiting the Catalina Island Marine Institute on Catalina Island. Both trips fostered the student-to-student bonds, creativity, critical thinking, courage, experiential learning opportunities, and collaboration among students for which Marymount is well-known.
This year, as in the past, students returned home exhilarated and changed somehow, not only because of the intense learning that occurs during Marymount’s well-designed trips, but also perceivably more capable, confident and connected after sharing an adventure and surmounting the challenges that the trips provide.
This year’s seventh- and eighth-grade trip to Monterey and San Francisco had the theme “A Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes” and, metaphorically speaking, gave students many opportunities to do so. A good example was a day during which the teachers and students participated in a choral reading of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and visited the John Steinbeck Center, where they reflected and discussed Steinbeck’s literary works. The students then picked produce at a place called “The Farm,” and had the opportunity to “walk in the shoes” of a California migrant farm worker like the ones that Steinbeck wrote about.
Accompanied by 10 teaching faculty from multiple disciplines, the students were also poised for rich cross-curriculum learning opportunities. An example of this was a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Ingenuity and critical thinking skills were put to use when the students participated in on-site writing exercises and collaborated on an art project. They were forced to work in teams, collaborate with team members and muster up a bit of courage when solving math, logic and science clues during an exciting student-designed nighttime game of “The Amazing Race” that led the students to various Google map locations.
A favorite finale to the Monterey and San Francisco trip is a bike trip across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and back. It’s a bike ride that is exhilarating and, for many, requires courage and a leap of faith, but with the support of at least 50 classmates and 10 teachers, it is a manageable feat, enabling students to return home more confident, more capable and more connected to their classmates.
The sixth-graders’ trip to CIMI is similar in its opportunities for enriched, experiential, cross-curriculum learning and experiences that reap benefits beyond the obvious in terms of confidence and student bonding. The program at CIMI focuses on experimental science utilizing hands-on activities, lab equipment and the beautiful Catalina environment. The program is a complement to Marymount’s strong science program. Experiences such as night snorkeling, kayaking, camping and astronomy hiking whet sixth-graders' appetites for adventure and offer opportunities for student-to-student bonding.
In the words of sixth-grader Clara, “The best part of the trip was the Night Dive. It was designed to see what came out at night. Even though it was cold and intimidating, I knew that if I didn’t do this, I would regret it because I was on an incredible journey with my friends.”
Tim Pearson, a sixth-grade math and science teacher who accompanied the sixth-graders on their CIMI adventure, wrote, “One student excitedly pronounced the presence of a leopard shark, and the group huddled again, peering into the mysterious shadows for a glimpse of spots and fins. The students shouted, 'Who saw it? Did you see it? Where did it go?' Then the group kicked on … some holding friends' hands, some boldly diving solo."
Like the seventh- and eighth-grade middle school students, the sixth-graders returned home transformed and accomplished. Thanks to the opportunities provided in the fall middle school trips, students returned home more confident, capable and connected than before and better positioned for the school year ahead.
— Molly Seguel is the director of admission for Marymount of Santa Barbara.