From the Desk of Maggie

We started a new tradition this year at Nerstrand School.  Our fifth grade students will be spending a week living and learning at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center.  According to the Wolf Ridge web site, the following is stated as their mission:  

Wolf Ridge is a place where minds open to the joy and wonder of discovery of our natural world. We seek to stimulate a love and understanding of nature by involving children and adults in direct observation of and participation in the outdoors. We promote self-awareness and leadership development in the process.
Activities and classes at Wolf Ridge are nearly all outdoors, typically three hours in length. Over fifty different classes and activities are available. Subjects include environmental science, cultural history, contemporary environmental issues, personal growth, team building and outdoor recreation. 

At the beginning of my career I taught at an international boarding school outside of London England. An integral part of the curriculum involved travel and first hand experiences.  Two weeks a year, once in the fall and again in the winter, the entire campus was closed so that all Middle and Upper School students could take sponsored trips around Europe.  Although, I taught 5th grade, I was able to chaperone some of these trips.  I  got the opportunity to visit Prague, Czechoslovakia just as it was opening up to the West, after many years of Communist leadership.  I also chaperoned to Vienna, Germany and a ski trip to the Swiss Alps.  My 5th graders also had a chance to travel through school.  My 5th grade colleagues and I chaperoned a trip every year to Devon, England, which is a county in Southwest England.  

These experiences taught me so much about the importance of hands on learning for all students.  In our classroom we had studied erosion, tidal pools and rock formations, but in Devon we got to see them and study them with so much depth.  As human beings, learning comes to life when we are able to study something using all of our senses.  I saw the huge impact this had on my students, and I certainly realized the impact it had on me.  So bringing this opportunity to our students makes so much sense.  We are lucky to live close enough to the Boundary Waters so that our students are able to visit this beautiful and uniquely Minnesotan ecosystem. 

Here is another blurb from their web site about their location: 

Located on a ridge overlooking Lake Superior, Wolf Ridge’s 2,000 acre campus is bordered by the Baptism River and features creeks, two lakes, two high peaks, 18-miles of trail and a mixed forest of maple, birch and spruce. Wildlife is abundant and includes pine marten, eagles, moose, black bear, white-tailed deer, fox, wolves, beaver, peregrine falcons and loons. Facilities include four classroom buildings, two dormitories, a dining hall, a raptor aviary, a library, two auditoriums, two rock-climbing walls, two outdoor ropes courses and an administration building.  

Our first annual trip will depart very early on the morning of February 27th, and will return on the afternoon of March 3.  We are so excited to offer this experience to our students as they become 5th graders.  We look forward to hearing about their adventures when they return. 

Maggie Kiley