Ninth graders spent the past week exploring California history, literature, and marine science during a rainy adventure along the Central Coast. Head of School Craig Floyd reflects on the lessons learned.
By Craig Floyd, Head of School
This past week, I had the opportunity to lead the 9th graders on a camping adventure. It was a blend of outdoor education mixed with environmental studies, as well as a deeper exploration of author John Steinbeck, whose work is studied in our freshmen English curriculum.
The trip, also led by English teacher Brad Weidlich and French teacher Helena Pasquarella, left Ojai on a rainy Monday morning and soon escaped the clouds north of Santa Barbara. An easy drive allowed us to arrive in Salinas to tour the John Steinbeck Museum, where Mr. Weidlich gave the students a great introduction to Steinbeck and his contributions to literature. Through this introduction, the students also learned about Ed Ricketts, a good friend of Steinbeck’s, who they would learn more about on Tuesday. We then headed to Monterey to set up camp before the rains came.
Tuesday was spent visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, and Pacific Biological Lab, the former home and lab of Ed Ricketts. The students were able to see first hand the locations from the novel “Cannery Row,” which they will read later this semester. As with any outdoor trip, flexibility is key. We had planned to leave Monterey and camp along the Big Sur coast. But due to the weather forecast of heavy rain and wind, and the probability of Highway 1 in Big Sur being closed, we decided to remain in Monterey to weather the storm.
We spent Wednesday exploring the Carmel coastline at Monastery Beach and Carmel Beach before we headed back to camp to prepare for the storm. Based upon the forecast, we were able to eat and clean up dinner before hunkering down in our tents. No one got much sleep that night until the winds subsided.
On Thursday, we were initially met by sunny skies before the clouds turned gray again. By now, the freshmen had shown their resilience and we adapted the itinerary to visit the Carmel Mission and then spend time hiking along the Pacific Coast and watching the waves batter the local beaches. The afternoon was spent back at camp, playing soccer and football, laughing with friends, and resting from the previous night. (We greatly appreciated the sports gear, and pizza, that freshman Ryan Farrell (L18)’s family in Monterey brought to our campsite!)
Returning to campus on Friday, the students came away with a better understanding of Steinbeck’s California and an appreciation for the comforts of home. The trip provided the 9th graders an opportunity to bond and experience a trip that will not be forgotten. The group maintained tremendous spirit and grit in weathering the storm.
For me, this group of 27 freshmen left a lasting impression. They were outgoing, engaging, adventurous, playful, and inquisitive. They also demonstrated their growing camaraderie as a tight-knit class. They definitely experienced their education, and I’m certain they will have stories to tell for years to come.