Off Campus Experiential Education
Experiential learning in the form of local field trips, long-distance travel, internships, and independent studies infuse and augment learning at Oakwood throughout the academic year. Learning through contextual experiences is invaluable for children. Field experiences broaden the students’ perspectives and illuminate lessons learned in the classroom. When learning stretches beyond the classroom, students have the opportunity to test their knowledge and understandings in the world and become more adaptive, accepting, open-minded, self-aware, and confident.
In Middle and Upper School, in addition to experiences taking place throughout the year, a week is dedicated to off-campus experiential education and our older students report that this week is one of the most important learning experiences they have at Oakwood.
Our Off Campus Education Experience provides students with an opportunity to develop independence and self-reliance, work and live closely with a small group, enhance critical thinking skills, increase a sense of empathy for others, and develop an understanding of and respect for the differences and similarities of cultures. At a time when culturally enriching field trips are declining in schools across the nation, Oakwood’s commitment to travel and experiential learning sets us apart by offering our students these deeply meaningful and significant experiences.
Local day field trips or on-site hands-on learning experiences are planned to enhance student learning and to develop a sense of community and independence in our students. Greenville and eastern North Carolina provide abundant opportunities for trips including the ECU Arts Smart program, local museums, and other sites. A favorite field experience every year for the second and third graders occurs when the Camp Flintock staff arrives dressed in period costumes to teach the children about Colonial American life.
Fourth graders study American history and travel to Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia, for two days where they participate in many hands-on activities. Highlights in Jamestown include watching and listening to the cannon blast at James Fort, going aboard the Susan Constance, seeing the Native American hunting and fishing tools, and learning to clean a deer skin and hollow out a log to make a canoe. Highlights in Williamsburg include visiting the wig shop, blacksmith shop, artillery magazine, tin man’s shop, joiner’s shop, and the palace and capitol. Participating in African dances, being the jury for a trial, training as a regiment, staying in cabins, and eating at Shield’s Tavern are also highlights.
Fifth graders take their environmental science and marine biology knowledge and understandings gained in the classroom and travel to Beaufort, NC staying at Duke Marine Lab for two days, where they participate in a variety of exploratory, discovery, and laboratory experiences. Some of the possible activities included in this adventure are trawling or seining for wildlife samples, observing plankton under microscopes, dissecting sea urchins and/or fish, building and testing their own model sea creatures, exploring a marine ecosystem on land, and/or exploring the Intercoastal Waterway on a marine vessel. Due to the seasonal nature of the excursions, the trip changes every year, adding to the excitement of being a fifth grader and getting to go on the next Duke Marine Lab adventure.
Sixth graders enjoy cultural arts experiences while lodging for two nights at Camp Caraway in Sophia, North Carolina. During camp time, students engage in team building activities led by the camp staff. Their cultural experiences involve tours of and activities at the Civil Rights Center Museum, the Center for Visual Arts, and the Witherspoon Museum all in Greensboro, the Asheboro Zoo, and the North Carolina Museum in Raleigh on the return trip back to Oakwood. Oakwood strives to develop well-rounded students with strong understandings in all disciplines and in the human instinct to create. The sixth grade trip immerses students in important arts and humanities learning experiences and is invaluable in this endeavor.
One of the most exciting middle school traditions at The Oakwood School is the seventh grade class trip to Camp Cheerio, where for three nights, students enjoy the spectacular beauty and thrilling adventures that the North Carolina Mountains have to offer. The trip is designed to build class community, to allow students to challenge themselves, and to foster an appreciation for the natural world. Every year, the staff at Camp Cheerio plan an exciting stay for our group. Students take part in outdoor challenge activities, which may include canoeing, hiking, ziplining, and a ropes course with low and high elements. Students always return with meaningful, personal stories from this adventure that they are certain to remember for a lifetime!
Each fall our students spend upward of a week on the activity of their choice on a particular trip near and far or through an internship/independent study.
While our 8th graders travel as a class to Washington, D.C. each year, our 9th-12th graders choose from a range of trips that encompass various pricings as well as distance traveled. Whether such things as experiencing German culture, speaking Spanish with native speakers, walking the Great Wall of China, visiting museums in New York City, serving others in Charleston, SC, or touring college campuses, Oakwood students benefit not only from the application of what they’ve learned in the classroom, but also from the maturity needed to accomplish experiences of this magnitude. These trips are designed to foster independence and leadership and give students a sense of community with their classmates and the world around them. One intended goal of trips is to form bonds between students of different grade levels, so no preference is given to seniority in signing up, and we encourage students to choose trips based on their interests and not their peer groups.
We also offer students the opportunity to pursue individual interests through the internship/independent study option. Students may choose to arrange their own course of study or internship during the week. Past examples include working in an art studio on a piece of artwork, shadowing a local cardiologist, and visiting the headquarters of a national NGO in Washington, DC.