Experiential Learning – Intermediate School

Hawaii: 7-8 Graders, 2014 Spring

In history Telluride Mountain School seventh and eighth graders study explorers, in science ecosystems and in English literature, but in Hawaii, we experience them. We taste, feel, hear, smell and experience the reefs, plants, oceans and island isolation. We gain a three-dimensional view of our studies by rehashing Captain Cook’s exploration of the Hawaiian Islands at Captain Cook Bay. We make connections regarding the health of coral reefs to the health of a global ecosystem as we swim amongst them. And while building shelters and identifying food sources in the remote Pololu Valley, we are introduced to the setting and themes of Lord of the Flies. The remote island of Hawaii brings history, English and science alive.

For ten days, the seventh and eighth grade students snorkeled the waters, hiked through rainforests and explored the volcanic landscapes of Hawaii. We went to study the volcanoes, marine biology and unique species that have evolved in Hawaii and how waves of human visitors to the islands, starting with the Polynesians, have led to dramatic shifts in the ecosystems Additionally, we explored traditional Hawaiian culture and history. It wouldn’t be a Mountain School trip without playing hard. Along the way, we snorkeled above octopi, eels and even sharks, crawled through lava tubes, hiked across a lava lake at Volcano National Park, and sampled multiple flavors of the island’s shave ice and ice cream.

As the trip came to a close, we realized experiential education isn’t just about bringing out studies to light, but also learning about ourselves and each other. Back in Telluride, we traded in our swimsuits for down jackets and sun-drenched days for spring snowstorms. We also took advantage of the opportunity to follow an area of individual interest from the trip and complete our spring research projects and presentations known endearingly as immersion. Unlike our tropical tans, the lessons learned in Hawaii are certainly meaningful and lasting.