The Corlears approach to education is unique in many ways. For anyone who has had the pleasure of attending a class culmination, it becomes clear that students not only learn about their topics, they live them. Classrooms are transformed into new places and the students, new people. Intricate details and decorations convey the depth of their study and understanding of each topic. Much of what allows our students to become so involved in their unit studies are the variety of field trips they go on throughout the year. On these trips classes are given the opportunity to see how topics they study in school live in the world around them, and take on various forms in different settings. Perhaps the most special trip our students go on takes place during the 8/9s years, when they take a three day trip Clearpool.
Throughout the 8/9s study, students take the rich learning they gain in the classroom to the outside world; exploring new places and meeting new people. The 8/9s classes are currently studying the woodlands and the Native American Lenape people. Together, these classes have taken trips to Inwood Hill Park to explore these topics in an immersive, tactile way. Students met with “Wild Man Steve” to learn about plant and animal life, as well as and what it might have been like to live off of the land the way the Lenape people did. Building off of these experiences, the trip to Clearpool takes this learning to exciting new levels. Students and teachers spend three full days together completely wrapped up in nature, where they have the opportunity to live out their studies.
8/9s teacher Christina says that while in Clearpool, the students can “immerse themselves in the woodlands 24/7.” With the exception of meals times and sleeping, the group spends all of their time outdoors. During their time together, the students and teachers engage in a multitude of activities including hikes, where they investigate a variety of animals, plants, and soil types. Students are encouraged to discover their new surroundings in different ways; going on a sensory walk where they are blindfolded and reliant on their other senses. In addition, students participate in a night hike where they must engage their senses as their eyes adjust to the darkness. For a group of 8 and 9 year olds these are not only very exciting experiences, but ones that give them a true sense of what it might have been like to live in this environment without modern day technology. 8/9s teacher Kate says that, for these three days, students get to “play” with their studies and learn by doing, “without pen and paper.”
At Clearpool, each aspect of their curriculum comes to life, including their study of endangered species. Students came face to face with an endangered (and, contrary to popular belief, very gentle) wolf named Atka from the Wolf Conversation Center (WCC). During Atka’s visit, the classes discusses animal survival, necessary resources and the responsibility that people have to support their needs and take care of animals as less and less land is available to them. Students continue their exploration of the food chain which culminates in a day-long game of “Predator and Prey.” Here, they apply what they have learned as they take on the role of animals in a physical game of strategy and skill.
Kate views Clearpool as a right of passage for Corlears students, and her sentiment seems to be shared by the rest of the community. The departure for Clearpool is nothing short of a school wide experience. Parents and teachers crowd around the bus and cheer as they see the kids off. The 10s, who have already gone to Clearpool themselves, hold up signs wishing them well. Children in younger grades look forward to reaching their 8/9s year and the opportunity to go on the trip, while older alums visiting in the fall come back and ask whether or not the new group has gone to Clearpool yet. Beyond learning, going away as a group is a transformative experience. Students rely on each other and build trust as unit. As Kate puts it, it gives teachers a chance to bond with their students and “who they are as people.”
Talk to any Corlears student, teacher or parent and you’ll know that going to Clearpool is a one of a kind experience. The trip serves as an opportunity for the classes to bond, but even more so, to deepen their understanding of their areas of study. Corlears students don’t simply memorize facts from a sheet of paper, they engage in experiences that provide insight into the many layers of a given topic. As Christina says, students come back “with newfound lens… because they have lived it.”