At Grace, our three-night overnight trip to Echo Hill Outdoor School is a longtime Grade 5 tradition. In fact, our students have been attending Echo Hill since 1990, making this year our 27th! It is an amazing opportunity for our fifth graders -- now our school leaders -- to spend some time in nature, to challenge themselves, and to bond as a group.
This year, Grade 5 teacher Luigi LaPietra and Math Specialist Beth Frentrup were the chaperones for the trip. We sat down with Mrs. Frentrup to hear a little bit more!
This is your second time chaperoning the Echo Hill Trip. Why did you sign up again?
I’ve always loved being out in nature and, in fact, my undergraduate degree is in Natural Resource Conservation. So I really enjoy watching students discover facts about nature.
What’s something you saw at Echo Hill that you don’t see in the DC area?
We saw two bald eagles when we were out on the Chesapeake Bay. Seeing our national bird soaring through the sky as we started our Bay studies class was pretty exciting.
What do you think were some of the highlights for the students?
I think that all the students had heard about the giant swing before going, but seeing just how high it is, and deciding what their personal height goal would be, was something both fun and serious for them.
Did the group find anything especially challenging?
The night hike was a challenge because we are so used to electric light and never being where it’s totally dark, so there’s definitely an adjustment period for your eyes. But because we had an almost-full moon, after that adjustment period we found that we could hike even in the shadows of the moonlight. Students helped each other by pointing out when they saw roots or twists in the trail, and this was an important part of our community-building.
Beyond the swing and the night hike, what other activities were memorable? What else did the students learn?
We did canoeing on a 3-canoe raft connected together, played group games, did a survival class during which we built shelters, and took an orienteering class.
After each class, the students reflected on what they learned and observed.
The whole trip really pulls together social studies and science in terms of what place we, as human beings, occupy in our world; and the dance between maintaining both the natural world and continuing to engage responsibly in the activities that are important to people (fisheries, crabbing, etc.).
And if you’re wondering what the students thought, here’s a short survey of Grade 5 students that reveals some highs, lows, and surprises from the trip:
Favorite things: the swing and the food
Least favorite things: the privies and stinkbugs
Surprises: a dead snake!
Finally, since Mrs. Frentrup is our Math Specialist, of course we have to end with some figures! Presenting “Echo Hill 2017 by the Numbers”:
1: Number of blue herons we saw in the swamp
10: Number of delicious meals we had
12: Number of excited students on Monday, happy students all week, and tired students on Thursday!
16,773: Number of steps Mrs. Frentrup took on the first day
3: Number of night programs (hike, hayride, campfire)
40: Number of feet high many students set as their swing goal (!)