We Can Do Hard Things!

By Ms. Pheister, Fourth Grade Teacher

The third, fourth, and fifth-grade teachers started the year by brainstorming some team-building projects and field trips we could go on to get a strong start for the year. We decided on two early character-building field trips: one to Shenandoah National Park for a hike to see the falls in White Oak Canyon and another that is a service project at the Fauquier Educational Farm. I'm pleased to report that despite many fears among the students, the trip was a smashing success!

We met at the trailhead last Friday to discuss "Leave No Trace" principles with the students. We discussed how even though we were a large group, no one should ever be able to tell that we were there. It was eventful right from the beginning because a giant rat snake was sunning himself right next to the sign that said "Beware of Snakes"! Despite fears, students divided themselves into groups of 3-6 and paired off with a teacher or a chaperone. Each group had to work as a team to hike at a pace all students could agree upon.

"The water was freezing, but the waterfall wasn't cold. I have questions about that!" - Amani

Even though many students were concerned about the heat, the distance, and the climb, all students made it to the rendezvous point at the lower falls, and few were able to hike beyond to see the upper falls. Everybody loved the falls. There is lots of space to play, splash and explore. Students enjoyed lunch, looked for crayfish, and cooled off in the pools. They balanced fun with responsibility by being safe on the rocks and picking up all the litter (even the trash that wasn't theirs).

"I really liked the wildlife. I saw a black snake, a crayfish, bugs, minnows and millions of tiny orange mushrooms." -Trey

Not only did students learn the basic "Leave No Trace" principles to take only pictures and leave only footprints, they also learned about our local flora and fauna. They were especially interested in the many types of fungi and rocks along the trail. Most importantly, students learned how to compromise in their groups to find a pace and a stopping point that all members could agree on. And everybody learned that they could do hard or scary things if they put their mind to it.

Fun Fact: There are two sets of falls on the White Oak Canyon Trail. Students that hiked up to the upper falls climbed over 1,000 feet!

What makes this assignment "Wakefield":

What impressed me most was the way students cared for each other and their environment. Even students who are new to the school were already demonstrating good character by looking out for their classmates and encouraging them when they fell behind. Several students picked up trash along the way that was not their own, and when we left the falls there really was no trace that such a large school trip had just been there. In addition to that, we learned that sound mind and sound body go together. All groups made it to the falls with time to play and almost all students said that they actually enjoyed the hiking part. All students gave me thumbs up on the bus ride home that it was an enjoyable trip and they'd like to do the hike again next year.

What Was Your Path to Wakefield?

I started teaching here last year and loved it so much I enrolled my youngest son this year.

Why Do You Love Teaching at WCDS?

I love that, as teachers, we get the freedom to do stuff like this, and that experiential learning is encouraged. I also love the community! This field trip would not have been possible without many willing and fantastic parent volunteers to chaperone.

What attracted you to a career in education?

I love kids, and I love learning. I love watching students be excited about discovering new things and using the skills they learn in the classroom to pursue their interests.