September — If you’re looking for a definition of experiential education, look no further than the sixth grade science classroom at Ojai Valley School. We take integrated hands-on learning to a higher level by leading students on an exploration of the local watershed, which began this week as the sixth-graders ventured to Reyes Peak on a rainy morning to see first-hand how water enters our local environment.
“The whole valley is our classroom — and our playground,” sixth-grade science teacher Dustin Vail told parents at Back to School night. Indeed, the watershed project supplements the earth science curriculum as students participate in numerous field trips to the Los Padres National Forest, Matilija Dam, Ventura River, Friends Ranch citrus packinghouse, local wastewater treatment plant, and more.
The watershed study is complimented by the language arts reading list, which includes the Newbury Award-winning young adult novel “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen. Under the guidance of Vail and teachers Ryan Lang and Vanessa Herrera, the students practiced survival techniques they learned while reading the story of thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson who faces life or death in the Northern Wilderness.
This blend of earth science, literature, history, and outdoor education all combine into an integrated exploration of the environment as part of the sixth-grade curriculum.