There is nothing quite like Spring in New England. One day it is cloudy and grey and then, almost overnight, all the plants and trees are bursting into bloom. Spring at Quest is similar, all the classes are progressing day to day and then all of a sudden the work that has been going on all year coalesces into a variety of end-of-year events.
At the end of each three-year cycle in Elementary and Middle School, students immerse themselves in a year-long study that examines a local, national or international ecosystem. The 8th years have just returned from a four-day trip to the Dominican Republic, the 6th years leave this Sunday, April 28th, for their 5-day trip to New York City and the 3rd years are looking forward to their trip to visit an oyster farm in Narragansett Bay.
These 3-year cycle culminating events are unique to Quest. They are designed to enable each cohort to work together as a group to apply the many skills they have learned throughout the three years to a year-long project.
Local: Third Year (Lower Elementary), The Narragansett Bay Study
Starting in the fall, the children’s study progresses from learning about life in the Bay to how the Bay met the
Fundamental needs of the Pequot tribe. The 3rd year students by start their study collecting fish and invertebrates for the classroom saltwater tank, learning the characteristics of the Bay and familiarizing themselves with a nautical map of the bay. Several local trips are trips are taken to explore local working farms, a bird sanctuary, and a wildlife preserve.
The children also went on a seal watch in Wickford Harbor and took a day trip to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Connecticut. The final event of the study is lunch at Matunuck Oyster Bar before which the students will go out on the water to see the farm from which the oysters are harvested. In addition to its incredible educational value, this year long project prepares the third years for the bigger work of Upper Elementary.
National: Sixth Year (Upper Elementary), New York City Study
In the final year of the Upper Elementary cycle, 6th year students study the island of Manhattan as ancient civilization. They learn how the the different inhabitants of the island from the Lenape through modern day New Yorkers met their fundamental needs (food, shelter, defense, transportation, spirituality) and how humans use their hearts, hands and minds to solve problems and improve their lives.
Each student chooses a fundamental need and corresponding site in New York City to research over a period of several months. For example, a student who chooses transportation might research the history of the Brooklyn Bridge or the subway system.
In the second half of the year the students work together to plan the entire the 5-day spring trip to NYC. They learn how to learn how to read street, subway and bus maps in order to navigate the city and get from one place to the next. Working with a set budget they choose the restaurants and make reservations. Once in Manhattan, the students lead their groups through the city as each child presents their final report on grounds of the site they chose. The students return as cohesive unit ready to take on all the Middle School has to offer.
International: Eighth Year, the Dominican Republic
One of the goals of the Adolescent Program at Quest is develop a more global perspective for the students as the embark on their journey to become young adults. The intent of this year-long 8th year project is to increase their global awareness and sense of global citizenship. Traveling to a place with such a different way of life brings perspective on one’s self and one’s role in the community and helps to answer questions that are central to the work of the adolescent: Who am I? Where do I fit into society? How can I be of use?
In previous years, the students have traveled to Costa Rica but this year we chose to travel to Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic. One of our primary reasons for choosing Las Terrenas was the opportunity to foster a relationship between our Quest students and the students of the International School associated with the Fundacion Mahatma Ghandi, a community service organization that seeks to better the quality of life of the people of Las Terrenas through education and service.
While in Las Terrenas, our students spent several days with the International School students exploring the beautiful country surrounding the town and completing a service project for the community. All the students worked together to paint a mural depicting the need to protect the sea. Quest student then facilitated an environmental education lesson at the International School. Because one cannot visit such a beautiful location and just work, the students also had the opportunity to do some snorkeling and try their hand at surfing.