This month, La Tierra Community School kicked off its grade-by-grade camping trip season with a third-grade trip to Walnut Creek Station. The class has been learning about plant adaptations as part of their second semester themed learning. While at the station, the kids got a visit from the Prescott National Forest fire prevention crew, who explained the role of fire in the Southwest and taught them about fire-adapted plants and animals in the area. For fun, they put out a pretend fire.
Camping trips play an important role in La Tierra’s expeditions. These are engaging theme-based lessons that allow kids to get out and have fun as they learn core math, science, and English language arts concepts. This includes field trips – lots of them. In fact, the spring camping trips are just one part of the school’s programmatic approach to out-of-desk learning.
“We do at least six fieldwork outings a year – every teacher, every grade – to emphasize learning outside the classroom,” said director Julie Jongsma. “I think that that inspires a love of learning.”
The expeditions are just one part of a data-driven push to help La Tierra’s students excel in core subjects. Each year, the teachers work in professional learning communities to use the data they gather to make improvements to the school’s curriculum. So while David McNelly, the third-grade teacher, is out in Walnut Creek building challenges based on the Deltora Quest book series, it’s all happening with an evidence-based approach.
“Every year, we get better. We do it as an organized group with clear protocols and we stick with it,” he said. “It’s really paying off.”
Other trips the kids are taking this spring include a visit to Southern California for the sixth- and seventh-graders, who have been learning about the ocean. The trip included a sea kayak tour and an up-close and personal glimpse of marine animals at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Meanwhile, the first camping trip the kindergartners and their parents go on will be closer to home. The trip was planned for Lynx Lake, but its closure due to the Crooks fire means their camping trip will happen in town. Once they pitch their tents, though, they will still find plenty to study as they wrap up their latest theme, “Trees”.
“Kids want to learn and ask all the ‘whys’ and we foster and encourage that,” Jongsma said. “Learning is an adventure. It’s fun. And the kids love it.”
La Tierra Community School is a public charter K-7 school in Prescott, Arizona. It offers data-driven instruction and immersive learning experiences set in a close-knit community to keep students engaged, focused and achieving. Call 928-445-5100 or visit online at latierracommunityschool.org.