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Engaging Education Beyond the Classroom: Eighth-Graders Explore Learning at Weddington Farm

By Marcel Gauthier, Head of School
Marcel Gauthier

In the spring of my first year of teaching at Brentwood School in Los Angeles, way back in 1987, the senior class decided one early, early morning to make a symbolic gesture. They assembled about one hundred desks and chairs in perfect rows on the football field, and in the endzone, facing the rows of desks, was a single chalkboard with this simple sentence: “All the world’s a classroom.” Beneath it, they even followed proper citation and gave Shakespeare credit for the borrowed phrase. I remember smiling at the feat and thinking: not bad…

Because the fact is, the students were right. All the world can be a classroom if you choose to engage it as a source of learning.

These past weeks I have been thinking of all the ways our students learn not in the classroom, but outside it. Last Friday morning science teachers Sarah Klingler, Simon Keilty and an eighth grade Middle School teaching team took the entire eighth grade to Weddington Farm, where they engaged in a variety of learning projects with the support of local experts: they learned about bee-keeping and mushroom farming; they learned about the production of crops from seedling to harvest; they tested water quality; they did a tree identification survey; they built bird houses in the project barn. And more. Weddington Farm became the classroom for a day.

When I went to school, we used to call these “field trips.” We knew they would be fun, but we rarely expected to learn anything. The difference here is that learning is the goal and all the activities—whether an inquiry in science or working with one’s hands—were designed with that intent. It did not hurt that the students also were in a natural setting on a beautiful day.

Our Mission at Country Day specifically invites us to foster intellectual curiosity and develop a love of learning. Weddington Farm provides us with unique opportunities to do just that. With the ongoing support of Director of Educational Programming Steve Wall and Working Farm Manager Ewan Macauley, we look forward to supporting visits from over 800 students this fall through the month of November.

As I write, our fifth-grade students are planning a visit to the Weddington Farm and our sixth-grade students have just enjoyed their first overnight experience with MS School in the Woods. Special appreciation must go to all of our MS faculty for organizing and supporting these unique experiences. And yes, what a beautiful day for learning!

~ Mr. G

In 2023, Marcel Gauthier started a blog, "Reflections with Mr. G." Through this platform, Mr. G reflects on pivotal moments that resonate with our school's mission. His insights and perspectives provide a unique window into the heart and soul of Country Day, offering a deeper understanding of the values that unite us as a community.