Recently Upper school Students at Ridgefield Academy enjoyed three days of learning off-campus.
Armed with winter hats and gloves, students in Grade 6 made off for East Valley Ranch at Frost Valley YMCA camp in Claryville, NY. This trip incorporates the RA science curriculum with outdoor education; students participated in activities pertaining to the environment, ecology, farming, leadership, and team building. “The first night we camped in yurts (described as ‘giant canvas tents with wooden floors) and the second night the lodge, because it got pretty chilly!” remarked one student. Days were spent learning survival skills (like how to build a shelter in the woods), taking ecology hikes to learn about the local flora and fauna of the Catskills, and testing a pond for signs of pollution. A night awareness walk led to a discussion about how eyes function in the dark for both humans and animals of the forest. “We got to taste the maple syrup made on the farm and identified holes in a tree made by a yellow-bellied sap sucker,” one student told us. Farm exploration (including catching chickens and learning how to tell a fresh egg from a not-so-fresh one) and a low ropes course added to the fun of team-building activities. Our children were excited to see snow falling the morning they departed the aptly named Frost Valley!
Boston was the destination for our Grade 7 students, who were excited to explore the Freedom Trail and additional famous historical sites they are learning about in American History class this year. A visit to Paul Revere's house, “Old Ironsides”, and burial sites of many Sons of Liberty were among some favorite stops. One student just loved being inside the Old South Meetinghouse to participate in a lively debate between Loyalists and Patriots: “We got to scream "FIE! FIE!" at teachers and friends until our faces were blue!” Students were able to spend some time at Quincy Market, the Minute Man National Historic Park in Concord, Lowell National Park and the Boott Cotton Mill (also in Lowell) where students had a chance to experience what it’s like to work on an assembly line as well. Dinner at The Hard Rock Cafe (where the cookies were described as “amazing”) and a viewing of the new movie Frankenweenie added to the fun.
Eighth graders spent three days in our nation’s capital, starting with the National Zoo and Arlington National Cemetery where visitors witnessed the changing of the guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and viewed the World War II memorial. Dinner at Phillips Seafood Buffet hit the spot after a long afternoon, and one student described the restaurant as “having more food in one place than I’ve ever seen. Definitely my favorite place in D.C. to eat!” A night visit to the D.C. monuments and memorials (including Korean, Lincoln and Vietnam) closed out the first day. The second morning was devoted to exploring George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon. Here students toured the house, gardens and gravesite of our first president. One student remarked “The more I learn about George Washington, the more I think of how amazing he was. I had no idea he was one of the first farmers to grow and sell wheat as an income crop in the U.S.” Students and teachers then received a tour of The Capitol Building by Senator Blumenthal’s aides and finished the day at the Holocaust museum seeing first hand some of the artifacts and films they read about in Elie Wiesel’sNight. A talk at Ford’s Theatre (site of President Lincoln’s assassination) and a special tour of the White House ended the trip. “Even though we didn’t get to see Bo (the Obama’s dog), I can’t believe how much we saw and did” remarked one student.