Category Archives: Outdoor Exploration

Place-based Education: Outdoor Explorations

By: Science Program Coordinator, Kelsey Vollmer & Meridian’s Third, Fourth & Fifth Graders

This fall was busy with one of the highlights of Meridian’s Place-Based Program.  Third, Fourth, and Fifth grades all went on overnights in the Pacific Northwest Region to explore and experience the environment around them and make connections to what they have been learning in the classroom.

Third grade concluded their study of ecosystems with their visit to Camp Seymour in the southern Puget Sound area.  Here, they made connections between what they were learning in the classroom, science lab, and Meridian Park to a Pacific Northwest Forest.  Students studies decomposers under microscopes, recreated the life of a salmon, and investigated sea anemone reactions at the tide pool touch tank.

Fourth grade journeyed to Camp Orkila on Orcas Island, spotting Orca whales and discussing the watershed of the Salish Sea along the way.  At camp students were led through a series of team building activities to challenge their understanding of how to work with one another.  We also ventured out on an afternoon hike near Mountain Lake where students spent some time quietly taking in the environment around them and documented their experience in their Meridian nature journals.

Fifth grade connected their study of Lewis and Clark to their place as we headed down to Astoria, Oregon to retrace the footsteps of the expedition.  Students studied and drew the plants Lewis and Clark wrote about in their journals, looked out over the Columbia River and its surrounding watershed at the Astoria Column, and kayaked on Steamboat Slough and the Columbia River around Price Island.

By: Meridian 3rd Graders

We had a blast at Camp Seymour. Every lesson was information-packed, yet none of it was the slightest bit boring. It felt so much more engaging to be there learning in person. There was lots to learn and lots to do, and we were able to make some choices. We not only learned through games but also through observing different aspects of the forest, particularly the undergrowth. There were different activities like hiking to explore levels of the forest from the canopy, as well as learning about insects and marine life by interacting with the animals in a touch tank (it was a little scary). One of the reasons that we love Camp Seymour is the staff. They are nice and helpful, and make learning so interactive and fun! Even the recreational activities we did were mostly educational. Overall we had a wonderful adventure.

By: Meridian 4th Graders

Kelsey joined us at Camp Orkila and taught us a about salmon and their life cycle. Later this year we will have the opportunity to raise salmon, so we are excited to continue learning more. We loved Camp Orkila. It was a good mix of free time, team-building activities and science. We feel lucky to be able to have field trips that are engaging, it makes learning about our environment a lot more impactful.

By: Meridian 5th Graders

The fifth grade trip to Fort Clatsop was really awesome! It’s strange being there because we learn all about it in history books, but it is really something else to be there in person. We’re grateful we get to engage with history in an up close and personal manner. We got to see and experience things (in a more modern way of course) that Lewis and Clark did, and it gave us more context for what we were learning in the classroom. These types of field trips really expand our learning because we can relate back to those experiences and it makes us curious to learn more!

Being Buddies

By: Meridian Second & Fifth Grade Buddies

Having buddies at Meridian is awesome! It gives younger students a role model to spend their first years at school with, and gives older students a chance to practice setting a good example. Particularly with fifth and second grade buddies, because the fifth graders get to spend their last year at Meridian teaching and helping the second graders during their last year as a younger buddy. Next year, they will get to be role models to Kindergarteners!  It’s really nice to have someone outside of the classroom you can become close with. We love that we have a different buddy each year because it builds new relationships and we can have time to bond with multiple friends across grade levels.

When we interact with the Tilth garden or Washington Green Schools we usually get to do it as buddy pairs, which makes the projects seem even better. When we are in the Tilth gardens we get to engage with the environment in a positive way, which we do a lot at Meridian. It helps to be involved in the environment to actually see what we are learning about in class. It makes it much more personal, and participating with our buddies helps everyone understand how to help others and get involved in improving where you live. We start partnering with Tilth in Kindergarten, and that teaches us responsibility. During Community Service Day, we went off-campus with our buddies to pick up garbage and waste around the neighborhood. It’s important to help your community, and we appreciate those projects a lot, especially since we get to share those experiences with our buddies!

NatureBridge Overnight Trip

By Meridian 5th Graders

NatureBridge is a field trip that all of the fifth graders go on at the end of the year. It’s an environmental science camp, and we were there for a whole school week! We went on lots of hikes and we went kayaking on Lake Crescent. We learned  about  forests, watersheds, tidepools, the Elwha River, and water tables in general. There were fun activities with water to cool us off! We played games and stayed up really late (which made getting up in the morning harder). Another school was there there too so we had opportunities to make new friends. This was definitely the longest overnight trip we’ve had, and it was even more fun than we expected!

This trip helped us feel really connected to nature. It’s a science field trip so it is educational, as well as a time to be together as a group one last time before graduation. It makes sense that we would end the year with it because it’s a really big part of our place-based education! Some of our favorite parts of the trip were just being in nature together and talking into the night in our cabins. Everyone was kind of sad because we  are all leaving Meridian soon, and some of us are going to different schools, but it’s also happy and exciting that we’re moving on to a new part of our lives. It’s bittersweet.

For incoming fifth graders, we want to make sure you know that this trip is amazing and so much fun!

Don’t be surprised if everyone starts crying at the last campfire. It’s a little bit emotional. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of our favorite experiences at Meridian!

Experimenting in the Science Lab!

By Meridian 4th Graders

The science room is an actual lab  that we all get to visit every week. There is a lot of space. It helps that we can see the projects that other classes are doing, instead of just seeing your own experiments. It’s really cool to see what everyone is working on. It’s also great to have Kelsey as a teacher, because she’s really nice and knows so much about science. She talks to you like an individual and an equal, rather than a kid scientist, which is really refreshing!

We do lots of experiments in the science lab (which are really fun). We do water tests, collision examples, erosion, pollution and more. There are experiments related to our Global Studies focus, Oceania, like detecting acidity in water and earthquake/flood demonstrations. The learning tools that we have in the lab like microscopes and all the large tools aren’t in our regular classrooms so it’s awesome we get to do more engaging experiments now that there is a dedicated space for it!

A big focus in the lab this year is studying the life cycle of salmon. We got salmon eggs from a hatchery, and we are raising them right now. We went to Carkeek Park to observe salmon and understand them. We got to see them hatch and move around. Then we got salmon eggs of our own to raise and observe in the science lab. One salmon fry had two heads, which was amazing to see! We are giving the salmon a better chance to survive when we release them because there are no predators in our tank. We are protecting them when they are most vulnerable. Out of about 300 salmon, only two will return to spawn!

Twice a week we test chemical levels in our salmon habitat. We make sure the levels are good for the salmon to live. The chemicals were fine in the beginning but lately they have been kind of high, we
are trying to figure out why (which is a fun experiment itself). It is rewarding, but a big responsibility, because if we make one mistake the salmon could die. We are excited to go back to Carkeek Park to release the salmon this spring. We are hopeful that some of our salmon spawn will be the salmon that the fourth graders get to observe next year!

Camp Seymour Overnight

By: Meridian 3rd Graders

3rd-grade-camp-seymourWe had loads of fun on our trip to Camp Seymour. It wasn’t was even that far away! There was a lot to do, and even though we were there for only one night, we filled up all of our time. There was a reptile house, a forest and wildlife ecology session, marine biology and an interesting outdoor hike. The hike wasn’t very hard, but we learned a lot on it and we played some educational games. One of the games was a rock, paper, scissor game that taught us about the canopy and the understory, which are layers of the forest, and another taught us about different animals around the area. We were surprised by how much we learned by just playing games.

img_4085While we were there, we didn’t just learn by playing games, but also through observing different aspects of the forest. We discovered a bunch of different insects and levels of the forest from the canopy all the way to the underground sections! There’s a lot to see in a few inches of the forest floor. We examined a small square of the ground with a handscope, and it was really eye opening! We saw so much more than we expected. We also got to learn about animals that lived in the water. We didn’t just see the animals, we got to interact with them, too! It was funny to see a hermit crab steal a piece of food off of an anemone. That was our favorite part!

Lewis & Clark Overnight

By: Meridian 5th Graders

class_taraclarkphotographyIt was really fun making our way to Oregon! It was great to step in to our history books and to dig deeper into Lewis and Clark’s discoveries.

We were surprised by how close together the historical places were–when we read about them in class they seemed scattered around, so seeing them in person was eye opening! Our hands-on experience made the locations come to life. Learning new information was even more engaging because we could see and imagine how Lewis and Clark felt when they were discovering the area. We were all pretty surprised to find out that they celebrated Christmas, with a full ceremony and gift giving!

During our trip, we went kayaking on the Columbia River, visited Fort Clatsop and Fort Stevens, and went to the Maritime Museum and the Astoria Column. One group even got to play on the sand dunes and see the Peter Iredale (an old shipwreck on the beach).

lc_taraclarkphotographyThere were a lot of challenges on the trip, some of us had never kayaked before and almost fell over! But it was definitely worth it. Some advice that we’d give to 5th graders next year is to bring a raincoat, a sweater and a hairbrush. It will be colder and wetter than you think it will be. In general, wear more layers than you think you will need, because there’s no harm in being extra prepared. When you’re kayaking, don’t be afraid of tipping. The tenser you are, the more likely it’ll happen. Lastly, the trip might not be what you expect, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be awesome!