Knollwood Elementary School is a beacon of hope for all of their students. They have recently received the opportunity to take students on Learning Expeditions. These Learning Expeditions are creative ways that students learn outside of the classroom while still aligning with the core curriculum.
“The goal is not only to make learning relevant for students but to offer them new experiences by going to places that they may have never been before. We want students to be passionate about learning and we hope these trips will inspire them to not only be excited about school, now, but to think about their future careers and passions,” said Jenna Wilson, school counselor.
Oh, the Places You Will Go!
Shonda Hairston is Knollwood’s principal. She was also recently named Rowan Salisbury School’s Principal of the Year. She indicated, “Each quarter, our students participate in a learning expedition. Kindergarteners have gone to the aquarium, 1st graders have gone fishing, 2nd graders have spent the day hiking and canoeing and night camping, 3rd graders have zip-lined, 4th graders have walked across the Swinging Bridge and climbed Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and 5th graders have waded in the sound. Our summer expedition was a visit to New York City to tour the Empire State Building, Ellis Island, Central Park, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Statue of Liberty, the 9-11 Memorial Museum and attend a Broadway play. These Learning Expeditions have allowed us to not only make curriculum connections, but to make life connections. Our theme this year is ‘Wander Often, Wonder Always’. We want our learners to be curious and unafraid to explore and discover the world around them and to make sense of their own learning.”
These Learning Expeditions have inspired many students to think about the world outside of our community. Over the summer, some of our rising 5th graders were able to take a trip to New York City and have all sorts of culturally relevant experiences, so many of the students remarked about how excited they were to see somewhere totally different from Salisbury and experience something out of their norm. Knollwood is trying to support district initiatives with their Learning Expeditions as well, some of which focus on helping students identify their passions and integrate those into planning for their future life goals. Ms. Hairston and her staff want to expose students to a variety of experiences and career options so that they are able to identify life goals that will help them align their passions with bettering the world and community around them. Many students have remarked that they didn’t even know certain careers existed and were so grateful to have more knowledge about all the kinds of jobs that they could have when they are older.
Tavella Miller, a Kindergarten teacher at Knollwood commented saying, “The students really enjoyed themselves. It was truly an amazing sight to see how the students’ faces lit up as they interacted with the animals. We are making memories!”
According to Shonda Hairston, this idea originated from their needs assessment. “Upon being granted Renewal status, schools were asked to create needs assessments which would reveal some areas that needed strengthening in order to improve student achievement. Something that I realized, but was confirmed by information gathered from the needs assessment, is that our students have limited educational experiences outside of school; therefore, they lack the ability to connect learning with the world. These opportunity and experience gaps were contributing to our achievement gap. Teachers were asked to review their standards, brainstorm places that we could take students outside of the school setting that would allow them to have hands-on learning experiences that would help make connections to what they were learning.”
“Knollwood is so appreciative of the support that we have received from our school district and the places that we have visited. The lessons that our students have received from rangers and instructors at the various sites have been phenomenal. We were also fortunate to receive the NC School Go Outside grant from the NC Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council to help fund our camping expedition,” said Shonda Hairston, principal.
The feedback that they have received from students and parents has been wonderfully positive! Some parents expressed some hesitancy at first for their children to go on trips that are a farther distance away, but most have been very supportive and encouraging of our attempts to expand our student’s horizons to more possibilities. Students have loved the expeditions with many saying that they would have never had these sorts of opportunities if not for our school providing them. According to school counselor, Jenna Wilson, “Knollwood has been grateful for our supportive parents and engaged students.”
There is an African Proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Knollwood is doing a magnificent job with being a part of their student’s village. School is where most students spend a lot of time during their younger years. In the school setting, students need support and should receive opportunities and experiences that will help them to be better people. “These expeditions have been such an amazing experience,” says 4th grade teacher, Karina Reyes. “The look of excitement on our students’ faces is immeasurable. We will truly cherish these memories for the rest of our lives.”
For parents and caregivers around Rowan County, the Thursday morning following the close of the 2021-22 school year went one of two ways. The lucky clutched mugs of hot coffee, gazing dreamily on the sight of dozing children taking full advantage of one of summer break’s many perks: sleeping in.