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This spring semester at The Oaks, we returned to normal in many ways: moving to a mask optional policy, welcoming all of our families to gather together for all-school chapels on Wednesday mornings, and going on more field trips in this semester alone than in all of last year. With these field trips, our 4th through 8th grade students got to experience some of the most highly anticipated and long-remembered field trips of their time at The Oaks.

St. Meinrad
As part of their study of the Middle Ages, 4th grade students take an overnight trip to St. Meinrad’s monastery in southern Indiana. Students took a tour of the Romanesque-revival church and monastery, joined the monks’ for the daily prayers, and some students even woke up very early for vigils and lauds. The trip also included a tour of Squire Boone Caverns in Mauckport, Indiana, a beautiful limestone cave with many natural decorations. By experiencing this underground world, students gain a strong understanding of erosion and cave formation, one of their units in earth science.

After the students attended evening Vespers (one of the monks’ daily prayers), I asked them to think of one word to describe the experience of worshiping with monks in much the same way that monks worshiped in the Middle Ages. One student chose a Latin word — mirus — which means “strange and wonderful.” From this word, we get the English word “miracle.” This one word perfectly describes our overnight trip. It was extraordinarily different, wonderful, and miraculous to spend time in such a holy place. The fact that a student used Latin to describe our immersive field trip experience also shows how the children are excited by our entire curriculum. They are making connections across disciplines and engaging deeply with big ideas in meaningful ways.

– Mrs. McDonald

Mrs. McDonald and Girls at St. Meinrad's
Inside Squire Boone Caverns
Mrs. McDonald and Boys at St. Meinrad's

Camp Tecumseh
After starting their year studying Native American history, 5th grade students travel to 700-acre Camp Tecumseh, the YMCA outdoor center on the banks of the Tippecanoe River. What is usually an overnight adventure was only a day-long trip this year, but was very reminiscent of the original trip called Pioneer Day: The Oaks Academy’s original Thanksgiving celebration of our Native American and pioneer heritage. On the trip, students experienced a “hands on” feeling of what it was like to be a pioneer in Indiana’s early history: learning how to grind corn meal to make bread, set a trap line, make candles, go to school in a one-room schoolhouse, and play pioneer games. 

During our time of reflection, the students shared that they learned what life was like for colonial children (which involved hard work for survival), and they now more deeply appreciate their homes, school, and families. After reciting his lines from his chosen Patriotic Speech, “Tecumseh”, one student said “Imagine that 200 years later, kids have been influenced by Tecumseh’s speech and still want to make a difference.” 

– Mrs. Gray

5th Grade Girls Listen to a Presentation
5th Grade Student Reciting "Tecumseh"
5th Grade Boys Pose for a Photo

Cincinnati, Ohio
Over the course of the year, 6th grade students focus on African history and the experience of people of African descent in America through the Civil War and Reconstruction. In May, they took a day-long trip to Cincinnati to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. At this museum, students experienced the stories of freedom’s heroes and learned about the current blight of human trafficking all within view of the Ohio River, the natural barrier between the northern and southern states. The Cincinnati itinerary also included a Riverboat Tour as well as Graeter’s Ice Cream, the famous shop with its French-pot freezers that first began in 1868.

The students were really excited about visiting each of the locations on this trip, they just wanted to see and do everything – even their assignments – without needing to be encouraged. My favorite part of the field trip – which is a common occurrence – was hearing the docents or guides express how engaged and knowledgeable the students were about the topics or items that they were observing. 

– Mrs. Shaw

6th Grade Students at National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
6th Grade Students at National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
6th Grade Students in Front of a Bridge

Chicago, Illinois
While the 7th grade trip to Chicago is usually an overnight journey, this trip also had to be shortened to a single day. Chicago is a city rich in architectural heritage and is known as the birthplace of the skyscraper. Students were able to take a Riverboat Architecture Tour before having lunch at a soul food restaurant in the historic African-American neighborhood of Bronzeville, one of the most significant destinations of the Great Migration. Wrapping up the day, students visited the University of Chicago Oriental Institute, a boutique museum that houses a world-famous collection of relics from ancient Sumer, Egypt, Babylonia and Persia and the DuSable Museum, originally called The Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art and the nation’s first independent museum celebrating Black culture.

This was the first year that we had done the architecture tour on the river – normally it’s a walking tour – and our docent was so engaging and knowledgeable about the history of the city and its architecture. A highlight of the trip for students is eating at Pearl’s Place restaurant because they get the whole place to themselves and its filled with pictures from history and musicians – and they know almost all of them by name and point them out!

– Mrs. Williams

7th Grade Students at DuSable Museum, The Harold Washington Story
7th Grade Students at DuSable Museum, Fighting Racism in the Trenches: A Colored Woman in World War I
7th Grade Students at Pearl's Place Restaurant

Cincinnati, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois
While our 8th grade students normally take a week-long excursion to Washington, D.C. and Gettysburg in the fall semester, we were unable to offer that experience to our students again this year. However, due to the pandemic that started in the Spring of 2019, the 8th grade class was unable to experience their trips to Cincinnati and Chicago until this spring when they got the opportunity to travel to both cities! They followed the same itineraries as the 6th and 7th grade students above.

One thing that was so common for the students to say at the start of the year was ‘We always miss out, our class never gets to do the normal trips’. But this spring, and with these trips in particular, they have been starting to say ‘It’s starting to feel like it’s a normal year again.’

– Mr. Kortepeter

8th Grade Studnets on Cincinnati Riverboat Tour
8th Grade Students at National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
8th Grade Students in Cincinnati
8th Grade Students at the DuSable Museum, Clearing A Path For Democracy: Citizen Soldiers Of The Illinois Fighting 8th
8th Grade Students at the University of Chicago Oriental Institute, The Joseph and Mary Grimshaw Egyptian Gallery

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A School 26 alum stands in front of the newly unveiled historical marker honoring John Hope School 26 and the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library
Leadership

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