Note: The following article was published in the St. Helena Star on March 16, 2017 and can be found online here.
As educators, we believe in enriching the experiences of our students outside of the typical classroom setting. The GIVE BIG campaign, managed by the St. Helena Public Schools Foundation and the St. Helena parent groups each school year, raises funds that allow teachers to do just that. The funding we have received over the years has helped engage students in several ways. For science class, students have had the opportunity to attend the Exploratorium in San Francisco; in history class, students have traveled to the Legion of Honor as well as listened to three in-class presentations by an historian.
One of the highlights in sixth grade is our annual science field trip. For the past two years, our trips to the Exploratorium have been fun, engaging, and educational. Sixth graders have explored, tinkered, asked questions, and discovered scientific concepts from the many hands-on exhibits at the museum. Students have experienced the joy of learning and discovering due to the funding provided by GIVE BIG. Thank you!
Our trips to the Legion of Honor have been truly amazing. All sixth-graders get to become artists, art historians and museum curators. While at the museum, our students work in groups led by incredible docents. Students are able to present to each other actual ancient artifacts they have organized into a mini exhibit. After an art lesson, students use charcoal and other materials to imitate paintings of European masters. Our students also participate in the curricular process called Cycle of Inquiry, created by the art historians at the Legion of Honor. Many parents have commented that the trip to the Legion of Honor is one of the best field trips they have ever attended.
The GIVE BIG campaign funds also bring lively experiences directly into the classroom. For the last four years, Mr. Lonny Johnson, owner of Ancient Artifacts, has been captivating all of our students with his incredible storytelling presence and genuine artifacts that are thousands of years old. Students really enjoy holding Egyptian surgical tools as Mr. Johnson regales them with descriptive details of removing the brains of wealthy Egyptians and pharaohs during the embalming process of mummification.
During the presentation on ancient Rome, students are smiling and laughing as they practice Roman Legion battle strategies. During the presentation on ancient Greece, Mr. Johnson retells the famous Battle of Thermopylae so well that students sit at the edge of their seats wondering how 300 Spartans were able to fight off hundreds of thousands of Persian soldiers. Both the Legion of Honor and the Ancient Artifacts program has become a staple of our learning community. It’s been great to see the engagement and excitement in students’ eyes as they enjoy these wonderful moments of learning.
These hands-on educational experiences — the Exploratorium, the Legion of Honor, and Ancient Artifacts — are only possible because of the extra funding provided by the GIVE BIG fundraising drive. Thank you again to all the people who work tirelessly to invest in our students!
Editor’s Note: The Robert Louis Stevenson sixth-grade team is made up of Rob Grace, Erin Kurtz, Margie Scherer and Ngu Pham.