Everglades Study Field Trip
Day 1: Monday, March 25, 2019
Phoenix School kids gathered like squawking anhingas waiting to check in for their flight to the Everglades for a week of science and adventure. Upon landing, Kyle and Jim met Mike, Barbara and 8 Phoenix kids, all Everglades experts excited to learn in the field what they had researched in school. We loaded our gear into Kyle’s truck and headed for dinner–our first adventure. Kyle led us to a food truck gathering, where we each chose a delicacy from one of the many trucks serving tasty ethnic specialties. Kyle treated us to a delicious meal and the best lemon-limeade ever before we set off to listen to the music of the Everglades.
Darkness descended well before we reached our destination so we were left wondering what lurked in the inky black that lay beyond our ribbon of road. We marveled at the sky with more stars than we can ever see in Salem. Soon we left the comfort of our cars behind and walked through the shadows to the trailhead. We felt encompassed by the velvety night as we started down the Anhinga Trail that looped just above the slough. Into the darkness we walked, one by one, alone and on our own, protected by the rails of the boardwalk, but open to the noises of the night. It was a solo-walk into the night, some of us striving to hear the Everglades speak to us, some of us more wary than others. Let snippets from our journals describe the lure of the glades we all felt.
Emma: I stand looking out at the still water, unable to fully comprehend what I’m seeing. It’s eerie, being here by myself, in this slough devoid of human touch. I never knew how loud the night could be until now. It’s an orchestra of birds and insects; everyone has a place in the choir. I can hear the balance of nature around me, and though it’s loud, it’s also quiet and tranquil.
Quentin: Standing in the moonlight, I looked out at the shimmering waters of the Everglades. I closed my eyes and listened to the symphonic cacophony of the night animals. My nose was flooded with the scent of brackish water and flowering plants. The Everglades delighted all my senses.
Lucas: A forest of calm is unbroken by voices and preserved for me to walk alone inside. I can barely differentiate the trees from the wooden path in this monochrome landscape. The Big Dipper almost illuminates alligator filled water that refuses to be pierced due to the endless nightscape’s grasp on the trail.
Julia: Mosquitos haunt my ears as the boardwalk in front of me curves into the mysterious dark. Unexpected splashes sound on each side of me. Shimmering stars from vibrant to dim guide me with their light. Dark calming night surrounds me in comfort and life.
James: Fish aggressively slap their tails on the water’s surface, sending shivers up my back. Tall grass gracefully sways to the song of the crickets making me want to join in. The illuminated moon shines above, looking down at this hidden treasure. I feel lost, but in no hurry to find myself.
Arianna: Mosquitos bit my arms and legs as I walked along the bridge. My mind was out of control thinking about a million things at once. I walked slowly and breathed in and out. Eventually I calmed down. I tried not to think of any alligators coming my way.
Raya: Two paths, two different directions. Guided by the stars and fate, my path is chosen. Boards creak under my feet making me extra aware. Shadowed spots that lay before me send shivers all through me. Heart racing, I fear the worst. Hopefully answers are in the stars. With my gaze tilted upward, I finally feel safe.
Ella: I begin my trek down the long looped boardwalk. My ears tingle at the sound of swishes and splashes below in the murky water. Two eyes and a snout rise barely above the surface. Everything around it becomes blurry as my eyes only focus on the prehistoric creature that rules the slough.
No one wanted to leave the slough so Mike, Kyle, and Jim lit up the waters with their flashlights, revealing jumping fish, cruising gators and pairs of yellow or red eyes flickering from the darkness. Eventually we had to concede that tomorrow would be coming too soon, so we packed it in and headed for our youth hostel. We all earned an extra hour or so of sleeping in.
Brackish water fills my shoe, saturating my sock, as I take my first step. In the distance a lone bobcat cries out, sending fear through my body. Another step causes me to slightly sink in the slick mud. Fear sinks to the bottom of my stomach. Just let me not come face to face with the mouth of an alligator! I keep moving forward making my way through the cloudy water. Mangroves tower over me, blocking out the majority of the sunlight. It’s been a dream of mine to be in the presence of these swamp trees. Every step sends fear through my veins. I take one more and I fall backwards. My instincts kick in and my hand grabs onto a mangrove branch. I always knew my leafy friend would save me one day! After that encounter, nothing can shake me!Everglades AnticipationRaya ~ 8th Grade
Posted by The Phoenix School, Salem, MA on Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Founder of the Phoenix School provides a window into the unique and dynamic approach to the academic philosophy behind this K-8th grade school.
You heard it first here on Find out about Phoenix!
Tell us what content you want to learn about next?
Founder of the Phoenix School provides a window into the unique and dynamic approach to the academic philosophy behind this K-8th grade school.You heard it first here on Find out about Phoenix!Tell us what content you want to learn about next?#phoenixfounders Barbara McFall & Betsye Sargent
Posted by The Phoenix School, Salem, MA on Thursday, February 21, 2019
What is the importance of students doing research for their travel study programs during grades 6th -8th grade?
Join Mistral and James (7th grade) to learn about Phoenix travel program curriculum.
What is the importance of students doing research for their travel study programs during grades 6th -8th grade?Join Mistral and James (7th grade) to learn about Phoenix travel program curriculum.
Posted by The Phoenix School, Salem, MA on Thursday, March 7, 2019
At Phoenix we always start Thanksgiving week by cooking, in multi age teams of students ranging from K-8th grade. These connections allow students to learn real life and valuable lessons from the variety of teachable moments. The Thanksgiving holiday reminds us of the importance of connection – not just with friends and family, but within our school. Phoenix is a family of students, alums, teachers, and friends. Our annual Thanksgiving Feast at school allows us to be able to celebrate together as one large family, connecting current students, with past generations of students.
Our community works together, where teams have to learn collaboration, and older team leaders learn to guide their younger partners through different aspects of cooking, from cutting and peeling apples and potatoes to different measuring terms, like rounded teaspoons versus flat teaspoons. Did you know cooking involves a variety of sciences, math, discovery, taste, textures, team building, real life learning and so much more? Students learn fractions in action, and how they apply to real life situations. During cranberry sauce making, students actively observe the physical changes of cranberries while they are being heated and cooked, and from sour berries to sweet sauce! Even the simple act of cooking can bring feelings from joy to frustration, to exploding taste buds and smells!
Older students learn to lead, guide and share their knowledge, while engaging the younger grades, encouraging them to participate and teaching them how to do certain jobs safely. Younger students are able to fully participate from measuring, to cutting to cooking the food. Students have to learn how to read recipes accurately and follow directions, otherwise their creations might just not succeed! These are real life skills, at all grade levels, and they teach students patience, team building, collaboration, guiding, teaching, and knowing when to lead and when to allow others the spotlight and so much more. All of these skills will transfer into situations students will find themselves in throughout their whole life, from highschool, to college and to their careers.
The students spend two days preparing and cooking a Thanksgiving Feast for our school community. From cooking and cleaning to decorations and dessert all grades are actively involved with creating their feast. On our final day we redesign the school to create one long table for the students, a smaller table for our Alumni visitors and a teachers table. Students are able to learn the dining etiquette of a formal meal, but in a very kid friendly way! By gathering around the table, students are able to share stories of their family traditions and enjoy the feast that they were a part of creating.
This also opens the opportunity for our community to reflect on the things we are grateful for, to find gratitude and begin to think about setting new goals for following year. And while it is important to recognize the gift of giving to the community, it is also the time to show respect and indifference to each other. Students are given the opportunity to reflect, in a group sharing moment students comment on what they are thankful for. Kindergarteners are often thankful for something in their family, while the older students often reflect on life events or global events that are making them think on a deeper level. Being thankful for parents is a common theme, from being given the opportunity to go to a school they value to pushing them to grow outside their box, to providing them with a safe home.
Students keep our local shelter, Lifebridge, in mind and make extra food to donate for their Thanksgiving Feast the following day. Students here are used to giving, helping, volunteering and being thoughtful. From a young age students learn to be mindful and considerate of their peers, their community and to students around the globe. As active members of the EarlyAct Club of the Salem Rotary Club our K-8 students discuss, vote and implement community actions that involve volunteering or donations. The learn early that giving comes in many forms—time, energy, money, goods and services, and more. But all have something in common at their core: they are gifts offered without expectation or implication of repayment, only the desire to create a better future.
Have a safe and grateful long weekend!
The Week of Thanksgiving
Excited Phoenix School 6th – 8th graders and teachers heading to Los Angeles, for a week of marine studies at Catalina Island Marine Institute begin their day early at Boston’s Logan Airport. As weary as we are when we reach San Pedro, we find a second wind as we board the brigantine, Exy Johnson to spend the night until we can catch the ferry to Catalina Island in the morning. Sleep is all we want….or so we think.
We do much more than sleep. Exy Johnson’s crew invites us to stow our gear below in bunks, then offers us opportunities to climb aloft on the Irving Johnson, berthed at the same dock. Some of us scramble out on the bowsprit, sitting astride the spar or lounging in the net below. Diving cormorants gulping fish entertain the net-perchers who happily wave to boats passing by. We watch others step out onto the shrouds to climb the ratlines to the top-mast platform 50 feet above the deck. They place their feet and hands carefully as they ascend, clipping in to master the last climb out and over the edge of the platform.
Raya and Devon reflect on their climbs.
Raya: “I can’t do this!” My mind tells me, “You won’t be able to make it to the top!” My heart has other plans, though. Using the last of my dwindling strength, I use my displeased muscles to pull myself onto the deck. What I see below me is worth the climb.”
Devon: I grapple up tarred line, hooking my talons onto thin ratlines. I am like an eagle in his nest. I am loving my time, savouring every second until I call, “Laying low,” and it is time to descend,
With legs hanging over the platform’s edge, our top-men gaze out to sea, over alien-like cranes waiting to load and unload thousands of piled containers, and out to the west, all the way to Catalina Island in the distant haze.
Smiling and waving at each other, some from below, some from above, we let the peacefulness of the sun and sea wash over us and soothe our tiredness.
Soon we “lay low” (descend from above) and pitch in to cook a delicious dinner in our ship’s galley. There is no better meal than one shared on the deck of a 2 masted sailing vessel with the sun setting in the distance, painting the sky a brilliant orange.
After dinner we gather at the helm to share our writing with the crew and then Ken brings seine twine to our bunk area ready to teach us how to make a monkey fist knot to hang around our necks. One by one, Phoenix kids succumb to the long day and its adventures, and turn into their berths to dream of our first day “at sea.”