The Gazette is Phillips Brooks School’s weekly parent newsletter. Each week, the lead article from the Gazette is cross-posted here on the PBS Blog.
In the beginning of October, the 5th grade went to Yosemite National Park with the science team for a week of team-building, environmental education, and outdoor activities. The students and teachers had a blast in the beautiful park and enjoyed the views of Half Dome and El Capitan. During the day, the students went on various hikes through majestic Tuolumne Meadows, as well as down in valley, where they experienced the 2,400 ft. Yosemite Falls and an excursion through the Spider Caves. The students loved supporting each other through the pitch-black Spider Caves, which was a highlight for many students. In the evenings, the students participated in various activities ranging from a mock debate on the historical decision to build a dam in Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley to creating a fort-like structure that mirrored the students’ experiences back at the PBS Village. The week brought the 5th-graders closer together and provided a great opportunity to explore and enjoy a must-see California destination.
Some photos are below; more can be found on the Photography Portal (login required; current families only).
Back in Menlo Park, we gave students a few opportunities to reflect on their experiences in writing. Here are some examples of the students’ writing about the trip.
- Poems on Yosemite by 5th Grade East
- “Cave Kindness” by Daniela ’18
- “Burn!!” by Eduardo ’18
- “Face Paint Forager” by Griffin ’18
Inspired by Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voice by Paul Fleischman, we used dialogue poetry to reflect upon our time in Yosemite. This type of poem is written by two people on a shared topic – it is a way to process experiences and feelings. It provides a structure to engage, acknowledge, and illuminate multiple perspectives as well as reconnect and build community.
Yosemite was a time of growth and more friends for me and probably the rest of the grade. My group in Yosemite was getting ready for the spider caves. We were hiking on dirt paths with surrounding redwood trees that made me feel separated from the rest of the world. “Is this it?” I asked our guide trying to sound curious but trembling inside. I felt a tingling in my back which was most likely visible to the fact of the instructor comfortably saying “ Yes, but don’t worry, I’ll help you guys all get through the caves.”
I started climbing up the monoliths which were probably not that big, though my fear visualized them as monoliths. “ Wow!” I heard Daniela cry out just a few feet in front of me. “We have to fit through this small hole?” I heard the surprise in her voice. The instructor had obviously not heard her because there was no response.
Once I climbed through the hole which was tiny even for me, I saw this ten foot drop! “Aaaaaaaaah,” I was absolutely terrified. Simon comforted me by explaining, “Don’t worry the drop is only like two feet down.”
“Thanks Simon,” I responded.
As we go farther in the cave I relaxed, until… “EEEEEEEK!!!” I fell down on my knees which were already scraped and dirty. As my hand swept up and around, it reached the many porous rock around me and..oh I think I felt something sort of sweaty hand. “Here, can you feel my hand?’’ I heard Simon’s voice. “Yeah, thanks Simon,” I replied gratefully. Finally someone was going to help me.
“Whoa,” Devin exclaimed falling into the ditch I fell in.
“Here Devin, can you feel my foot?” I asked knowing how I felt when Simon was kind to me.
“Yeah, thanks Daniela,” Devin exclaimed with a hint of relief in his voice.
“Any time,” I said boldly while lengthening my neck and back proudly.
When I look back on this experience I realize the importance of kindness and how it can make you feel. Hopefully that kindness spread down the line, out of the cave and into the universe!
I usually love pretend debates, but I loved the Hetch Hetchy Dam one especially, because I got put on the side that did not want the dam (San Joaquin Valley farmers) to be built. In real life I also did not want it to be built. I thought to myself, this debate is going to be a bit chaotic. But little did I know that it would be total chaos.
It was the second night in Yosemite and we were figuring out who would be the presenters for our group. Mr. Gerrity told us to guess. Devin had already on the first round of guess the number and was going to be a presenter. I went with seven, and suddenly Mr. Gerrity told me I was one of the presenters! Devin and I high-fived and talked about what we would say.
Our group was still waiting for our turn and I was getting impatient when the U.S Corps of Engineers came up (a.k.a Stephen and Simon) and started talking about dam restrictions and how the dam would provide San Francisco with crystal clear water. I thought about something to ask them that would baffle them, and when I looked at Devin, he had this smirk on his face. This was not good… I thought to myself.
They called on me. I started talking, but Devin interrupted after I had said only two words and blurted at the top of his lungs, “If you want crystal clear water, just go to Crystal Springs!!!! Burn!!!!” The crowd burst into laughter and the engineers were trying to get everyone to shut up , but no one would. That was a good burn I thought to myself. We lost the debate at the end and the dam was built.
What I learned from this debate was that if someone who can be a be a bit goofy sometimes and screams loud and you see them smirk, make them stop before they do something, but sometimes it's worth a laugh. I also learned that learned that you won’t always win debates, competitions or arguments.
When my class and I went to Yosemite National Park, we started a small little village. Some people played there, some didn’t. I was one of them who went over there every time we could. I would be there along with Stephen, McKenna, Safra, and Eduardo.
The woods that we played in were so beautiful. All the trees that were standing were alive. We were only able to use natural resources like wood, bark, rocks, burned trees.
We had this face paint that was first invented by just rubbing your finger on the burned part of a burned tree. You’ll find charcoal and you will get this black powder and you can rub and put it on your face. Some kids went crazy with the face paint and looked like they barely escaped a fire.
Every day we had free time and I would go to the small Yosemite village. I used to be a bark delivery man the first time I was there. I soon quit my job the next time I went there.
I would usually talk with the other people and discuss how to make different face paint colors. It would go like this, “How is it going, any new colors or discoveries? I think a lot of people are wanting new colors.”
“I’m trying okay! It’s hard, but I have a bright red rock that gives color, but it doesn’t show up well on your face,” replied Safra.
“Let me see,” I demanded,” the customers are getting impatient. They are close to yelling, seriously.”
I could hear the other people’s complaints. They sounded very urgent. I looked for other colors and avoided the angry people. I scavenged and foraged for other colors when a rock caught my eye. It was a orange colored rock. I took it back and scraped some off and turned it into powder and put it on.
The orange showed up well and I gave a little bit to all the people who wanted new colored face paint. They loved it and asked for more. I found out it was a hit and I was kind of famous. I gave a little bit more to the people. I didn’t care about the rock. I was focused on other colors that I might be able to find.
I thought to myself if I was able to find orange than maybe I can find other colors. I went scavenging for new colors and found a rock that if you hit it against another rock it makes white powder. I tried it out and it didn’t show up well. I asked Safra,” Any luck? because I found white but it doesn’t show up on your face.”
“Can I see it? I must have it for my collection of colors. What kind of rock did you use to get white?” Replied Safra.
I went to show her the color and I realized if you add water to any color it will show up better. I went to get my water bottle to give a tiny bit of moisture to my white.
When I came back, Safra found a blue rock that produced blue powder. I added water to the blue powder and mixed it with my finger. I tried it on my face and it stayed perfectly and I loved it. When I tried it with the white it turned out grayish.
I finally ran out of blue during the last free time. Just before we leave, I was so lucky to have something to do while we were at Yosemite. I talked to Safra about the trip and we both loved it. When we were getting on the bus, I thought about all the memories we shared there and all the face paint colors I found.