Learning Beyond the Classroom: Middle School Trips

Learning Beyond the Classroom: Middle School Trips

By Robyn Lindenberg

At Austin Jewish Academy Middle School, students wrap up the school year with incredible trips that are not only fun, but provide opportunities for true experiential learning. This year students will learn in Big Bend National Park, South Padre Island and New York City.

Sixth-graders will conclude their yearlong focus on astronomy, geology, weather and water with a trip to Big Bend National Park in West Texas. Students will experience the complex geologic history of the Big Bend area and apply classroom explanations to real-world examples of ways geoscience processes have changed the Earth’s surface. Over the course of the trip, students will develop a deeper understanding of the Earth’s place in the universe through direct observation with telescopes of stars, planets and galaxies. The trip will also offer students the opportunity to forge lifelong friendships while living and working together productively for five days.

Students will tour Fort Davis National Historic Site and enjoy a star party at the McDonald Observatory. They will hike beautiful trails and observe the geology of Big Bend and the surrounding areas, explaining how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying times.

In Balmorhea State Park, students will analyze and compare water samples from several different sources and interpret data on the properties of each source to determine water quality. Students will read literature about the Big Bend area, observe fossils, and enjoy the West Texas open skies.

After a yearlong focus on life science, ecosystems and structure-function, seventh-grade students will visit South Padre Island. There students will experience the complex ecosystems and real-world examples of how ecosystems are dynamic and can vary over time. They will be able to develop a deeper understanding of biodiversity and how this can be used to measure the health of an area. The five-day trip will also provide students with an opportunity to learn acts of courtesy necessary for a group to travel, live and work together productively.

In partnership with the University of Texas Rio Grande Coastal Studies Lab, students will take a marine discovery cruise on the Laguna Madre aboard the R/V Ridley Floating Classroom. Students will observe the living and nonliving components of the waters around South Padre Island to better understand the complexity of this ecosystem. They will use sampling methods and observations in order to experience scientific research within the context of marine biology, and even dissect a shark.

 Last year, seventh-graders traveled to Florida. Credit: Anna Bull

Last year, seventh-graders traveled to Florida. Credit: Anna Bull

In between analyzing and comparing marine life structures and traits that enable them to survive and reproduce in their environment and constructing an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems, students will splash their way around Schlitterbahn and visit a sea turtle ICU and rehabilitation center. While snorkeling and fishing, students will observe the wildlife in and around South Padre Island and describe the causes and effects of changes in the environment.

The eighth grade class will travel to New York City to experience a unique look into American life and culture through one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Exploring New York City will allow the eighth-grade class to develop a deeper understanding of Jewish life, history and immigration through the personal experiences of the generations who settled in the Big Apple.

From Ellis Island, to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Chinatown, and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, students will reflect on Jewish history to connect AJA Jewish learning with a personal and global significance. Students will trek from the Upper West Side to Central Park, go to a Mets game, visit the U.N., and even see a Broadway musical, “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Throughout their years at Austin Jewish Academy, students engage in hands-on, collaborative learning within a strong community of learners. They participate in numerous milestone events such as kindergarten author’s tea, third-grade geography musicals, the fifth-grade poetry slam, and Jewish studies milestone celebrations. These end-of-year trips provide meaningful, relevant hands on education and help solidify a love of learning and friendships that will last a lifetime.

For more information about Austin Jewish Academy, visit www.austinjewishacademy.org. AJA is accepting applications to kindergarten through eighth-grade for the 2018-19 school year. Contact admissions@austinjewishacademy.org to schedule a tour or attend an admissions event.

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