At Benchmark, learning is an interactive process of analyzing, questioning, and discussing what extends beyond the school walls. Recently, students had the opportunity to continue learning beyond the classroom during the following field trips:
Four lower school classes had the opportunity to learn outside the classroom by taking a nature hike and exploring tree houses as they participated in Tyler Arboretum's "Fall Eco-Explorations" program. From seed dispersal to hibernation, students learned about the adaptive mechanisms of mammals, birds, insects, and plants that help them survive in their environment as the temperatures begin to get colder.
Refreshing Mountain Retreat and Adventure Center
The 6th grade trip to Refreshing Mountain in Lancaster County, was a huge success. The students engaged in activities which required them to solve problems that could only be done as a team with all participating. To be successful, they needed to listen and encourage one another and remain positive through many attempts at challenges. As the 6th graders move through the school year, the lessons learned at Refreshing Mountain are referenced as they discuss how they can work together in the classroom using the team building strategies they learned while there.
Down on the Farm
Susan North's class recently took a field trip to a farm owned by the family of student Luca Sella. The Malvern farm is run on the principles of sustainable agriculture, a type of farming which is better for us, better for the animals, and better for the land. To help them understand the difference between sustainable agriculture and modern commercial farming, the students were split into two groups representing cows on a sustainable farm and cows were treated on a traditional farm. They also toured the farm to see the rotational grazing systems, including the practice of putting chickens in the field where the cows had been to eat the parasites and putting pigs in the woods to eat acorns. The students asked great questions about these practices and have been inspired to research more about them. Later in the day, the students helped build birdhouses that we will use in the Benchmark woods to attract birds. It wasn't all work, though! The students had a wonderful time swinging on the Sella's giant swing and enjoyed a picnic lunch along the stream.
Valley Forge National Park
As part of their study of Early American History, four lower school classes traveled to Valley Forge National Park. The weather was chilly, gray and drizzly - not what one would wish for a field trip - but perhaps the correct setting for the students as they followed the path of the Revolutionary War soldiers who wintered at Valley Forge. Park rangers dressed in period costume taught the students the same basic marching and musket firing skills that the soldiers used during the winter of 1777-78. The rangers also challenged the students to work in teams to solve the mystery of who had been the owners of four canvas field bags that were on display. In addition, students explored Washington's headquarters and learned about his qualities as a leader.
The 7th graders visit to Washington, D.C. included a visit to Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The highlight of the trip, however, was a private tour of the Smithsonian, graciously led by Benchmark alumnus Josh Bell '85. Josh, the Curator of Globalization at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, led the students through several different exhibits at the museum. The field trip provided the students the opportunity to visit many of the places they discuss in social studies class, to build community and middle school traditions, and, of course, to have some fun, such as dinner at the Cheesecake Factory!
To enhance their current unit of study on the performing arts, all middle school students visited the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. In addition to receiving a guided tour of the facility, the students participated in a lively workshop on American Musical Theater. The students were led through the process of developing a scene for a musical production. Working together they created the story, the characters, the setting, and the songs. What an amazing experience and great preparation for their upcoming performances of the musical, Cinderella!
New York City
Eighth grade students spent the day in New York City visiting sites related to their studies. The day began at the Tenement Museum where an actress, playing the role of a young Jewish girl from 1916, talked with students about her home in the tenement and showed them the way she and her family lived. They then visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum where they learned about the tragic events of that day. Between stops, the students had a tour of lower Manhattan and finished the day at Times Square and dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. It was a busy day of learning and enjoying being together as they head into the final days of their Benchmark experience.
The students in four lower school classes had the opportunity to experience live theatre when they took a field trip to see The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales at the Arden Theater. Based on the book by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, this collection of silly fairy tales not only entertained the students, but got them so excited about experiencing literature in this new way that they couldn't stop talking about the play when they returned to school.
People's Light and Theatre
The students in four lower school had a wonderful time at People's Light and Theatre seeing a production of A Single Shard. In this tale of courage and devotion, a single shard from a celadon vase changes the life of a young boy and his master. As a special treat, Linda Sue Park, the author of the book on which the play was based, was on hand after the production to answer questions about the story. Set in 12th-century Korea, A Single Shard won the 2002 Newbery Medal for excellence in children's literature.