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Place-based learning and active engagement outside the classroom
Extera has several innovative features that are unique to the experience of teaching and learning at an Extera school. One essential element of the Extera Public School education is the fundamental belief that not all education and learning takes place within the confines of the physical school setting. Extera recognizes that the community and city at large provide a rich resource for educational exploration and excursion. As a result, all Extera students are exposed to at least 3 or more learning adventures each year (not to include walking trips). With the Extera focus on the natural world and all of the rich learning opportunities that it has to offer, many of the learning adventures take students into nature to help them develop a relationship and comfort with the natural world that surrounds them. Some examples include: kindergarten students visit Pretend City, a field trip focused on interactive exhibits and activities that allow children to discover their own potentials and build towards a predictive and fulfilling future. Teachers and students walk the neighborhood investigating and studying the local flora and fauna, becoming familiar with, and developing a strong appreciation for their natural surroundings. Other learning adventures, or field trips, include (but are not limited to): culminating 5th and 8th grade overnights such as Yosemite National Park, or other.
And there are many, many others. Learning Adventures are planned by grade level, and grade level teams organize collaborative trips across the campuses. Some of the learning adventures, such as those listed above, have become “anchor trips” that may be repeated annually; others are determined on an annual basis depending on best instructional fit and learning objectives. Learning adventures are a meaningful extension of the learning that takes place within the classrooms and are open to all Extera students as part of the regular program the school provides. This 22-23 SY we are amplifying the Project Based Learning experience by tying one field trip per trimester to the aligned PBL focus: Soil in the Past, Soil in the Present, Soil in the Future (see above for more).
An annual school-wide event that involves the entire community and serves as an excellent example of our use of place-based learning is the Boyle Heights History Hike (BHHH). This annual community and school event helps to build appreciation and understanding about the historical, cultural, and artistic relevance of the Boyle Heights neighborhood and East Los Angeles. The event takes place on a Saturday and begins at Mariachi Plaza, where participants gather for a 2.5 mile “hike” through Boyle Heights, visiting local businesses and learning about the fascinating significance of local institutions and places. Artwork and writing created by Extera students is on display throughout the community, within businesses as well as displayed outdoors. The walk concludes at Mariachi Plaza, where Extera students along with other local artists perform music and dance to celebrate the event.
During the first two years of the event, more than 30 local businesses and 500 people participated in the BHHH, as it is now known to the community. Participants include students, families, Extera teachers and staff, friends of Extera, community members, and other people interested in learning more about and supporting the Boyle Heights and East LA community. The BHHH is a powerful example of how Extera students, teachers, staff and families work together with the local community to create something much broader in scope than individual experience.