Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
Several years ago I brought six students to California to study ecology. California is such an amazing place to do this. A one hour drive from one city to another and suddenly you are in a starkly opposing climates and landscapes. We studied the variety of habitats and biomes across the state. Not the purpose of this post, but if you're a science teacher, it's something to think about!
Before I go on I want to promote a FREE activity for your students! I clearly believe in travel as part of the educational journey, and think you should too! Even if you don't want to or don't have the resources or support at your school, you can still get your students enthusiastic about travel by completing some of these classroom activities. Check out travel brochure classroom mini-project for one such activity.
If you read parts 1 and 2 you know that students typically plan our school trips (with guidance) as projects (PBL). The particular student that planned this trip wanted to snorkel. I told her that California isn't really known for their snorkeling, but we decided to set something up anyway. We worked with an outfitter that snorkels the kelp forests in Monterrey, a marine habitat we studied before the trip. Kelp forests are only found off of the United States' west coast because of the unique landscape and topography.
The day we were scheduled to snorkel was rainy and windy. Central California often is. We arrived to get suited up and get out there, but the guide urged us not to go. The water would have been murky and turbulent. I took his word for it and canceled.
Suddenly we found ourselves without any plans. Our students got to talking to the guide, a young guy, probably 22 years old or so. He told us that a little later he would be going inland to some hot springs to meet up with his coworkers, and that we should all meet him there. It would be warm, the kids could swim. It would be great. It was even more convincing when he said it's a spot only locals know about. Of course my students were all over that. He gave me his phone number and very vague directions.
It was supposedly a 30 minute commute. The drive inland was stunning, with winding roads through the mountains and idyllic ranches around every corner. Somewhere along the way I missed a turn on the guides very nebulous directions. At first I didn't think much of it. I just thought I could turn around and retrace my steps.
Wrong. I proceeded to get us more and more lost. There were no other cars, no shops or restaurants, and NO CELL SERVICE. I couldn't call the guide even if I wanted to. In the meantime, one of my students was getting violently car sick because the roads were so windy. I had to pull over every so often so the poor guy could vomit.
At this point we had been driving around for 5 hours. Yes. Five hours. That is not an exaggeration. We were so lost, my students were so sick, my phone didn't have service and deep down I was completely panicked.
Suddenly by complete coincidence, we stumbled upon a little town. That little town by fate ended up being the town with the hot spring. I pulled into a gas station to find out exactly where this hot spring was. I asked the gas station clerk if she happened to know of this particular place. She looked at me and paused. "How did you hear of this place?" I told her our story of the snorkeling guide, how lost we got, how long we've been driving, that I had six students in the car waiting on me.
"You have teenage students in the car with you?" she asked. Yes! I didn't want to make small talk at the moment. I was so exhausted. I just wanted to get there. Then the words I will never in my life forget came out of her mouth. "You can't take your students there. It's a nudist colony."
No! No, we must have been talking about different places I thought. Turns out we were talking about the very same place, and after some cross-checking discovered that she was very correct. This guide convinced 6 teenagers and a 30 year old woman to drive out to a nudist swimming hole. I was completely stunned and had the displeasure of walking back to the car to tell my students that we just spent the day driving around and throwing up for nothing, because no, I will not be bringing my students to a naked swimming party.
What lesson was learned here? I now know better than to take travel advice from a stranger that is lusting after my students, in a town that I am unfamiliar with! Hopefully my students learned the necessity of asking questions and critically thinking. Can't trust everyone unfortunately. I wish that wasn't a lesson that needed to be learned in life. I think it is a great thing to take advice from locals when traveling. They have the best insight into the best experiences. There were red flags though with this particular individual. I should have questioned him more. Would have saved us a lot of time and stomach pain!
Until next time! Happy Wednesday
Check out my Pinterest page and my TpT store, Experiential Learning Depot, for more educational resources. I also want to invite you to join a Facebook group I recently started called Curriculum Share Unbound, where you can share and view any educational resources (free). Thanks!
Observe. Question. Explore. Share.
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.