By Aaron Griffith, AmeriCorps Member, Serving at McDonough Elementary School
Throughout the school year, the social studies curriculum for many fourth graders is to learn all about the state they live in. Not being a New Hampshire native myself, it has been an awesome opportunity for me to learn about the history, geography, and state symbols of the Granite State alongside my students. Part of our studies has been through the incorporation of experiential learning with the field trip opportunities we have had the privilege to attend.
One of the first field trips of the year was a visit to the SEE Science Center, right here in the historic Millyard of Manchester. With a combination of history and science, it was a cool opportunity for student engagement and learning, from experiencing static electricity to checking out the huge LEGO diorama of the millyard. With the long winter, there was a lull for outside learning, but the fourth grade classrooms here at McDonough further expanded their New Hampshire knowledge through state reports and projects.
With snow ever present on the ground in March, the fourth grade travelled to Beaver Brook in Hollis, NH to learn all about sugar maples and the process of producing everyone’s favorite pancake topper, pure maple syrup. Students got to locate and measure trees, tap the trees with a spile, and watch (plus taste!) the sap flow into buckets. It was a great opportunity to learn all about this New Hampshire specialty!
Spring finally came in May, and the warmth and newly green trees created opportunities for further exploration. First, we journeyed to Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown for an environmental extravaganza put on by our AmeriCorps friends with the Student Conservation Association (SCA). The SCA planned a fantastic day for us. First, we went ponding in a vernal pool to search for macroinvertebrates to determine the pond’s pollution level. Next, we had a great nature hike where we learned about the difference and how to identify evergreens and deciduous trees and got to see two turkey vultures. It was some of my students first time in the woods and what better way to experience the beauty of New Hampshire.
Our last and most recent field trip truly threw us into New Hampshire’s history as we travelled to Portsmouth to experience the historic Strawbery Banke. This neighborhood immerses you into another time, with old houses ranging from the 1600s to the 1950s. Hands-on opportunities to try things like churning, playing with tops, and weaving with a loon, all while actors in costumes with old time accents surrounded us, created an authentic experience as to life in old New Hampshire.
It has certainly been an engaging and educational year for my students here in the fourth grade. I feel privileged have experienced all of this learning with them of this state I have now called home for the past ten months.