A class of students at Skyview School, on the morning of Aug. 29, took part in a mystical journey across a sea of possibilities in search of an unearthly treasure. The odyssey was the latest "Crew Work" project for the expeditionary learning school, continuing its unconventional approach to education.
"Crew work is our model for expeditionary learning. They're projects the students participate in that combine visuals, sound and kinesthetic experiences to take a different approach to learning," said Wayne Regina, the school's director. "Some of our projects have received state and national attention, like our Sept. 11 mural project, where the kids learn about the 9/11 attacks, and make expressive tile murals."
The most recent of Skyview's crew work projects involved a group of first- and second-graders. Their teachers, Mary Layman and David McNelly, developed the plan for the crew work project.
"Today was the culminating event we spent weeks laying the groundwork for," said McNelly. "They've been learning about teamwork and cooperation, and we tested what they learned on the 'sea of possibilities' with the 'good ship Endeavor.'"
The teachers told the students that they would be seeking a treasure of limitless value that was locked away in another dimension.
"We gave them 'keys to the universe' - blue feathers - and they used those to enter the world where the sea of possibilities awaits," said Layman. "They also had to pass the test of silence, which involved them being quiet, which is no easy thing for children their age."
The teachers prepared a room with blue paper on the ground to represent the sea, overturned desks representing the children's ships, paper representations of the island where the fabled treasure was said to reside and a vicious sea-monster which plagued the waters.
"They had to use imagination, creativity and most of all, teamwork, to pass all the tests required to reach the treasure," said McNelly. "It's one of our main lessons, to have them not be passengers, but crew. In this project, they definitely were the crew."
The treasure the children found was a scroll bearing an empowering message concerning the value of imagination, cooperation and intelligence. Those things, the scroll said, meant that the students possessed the power to change the world.
"As this event shows, we don't use traditional learning methods here. There are no desks or books. It's much more about hands-on experience - learning by doing," said Layman. "I've taught in the traditional school system and I find this much more liberating and exciting."
Layman said Skyview School works to appeal to as many learning styles as possible.
"For the students who actually do learn best with reading or listening to lectures, they might struggle a bit here, since that's not what we're about," said Layman. "But that's the great thing about this community. You have more options available for children, so they can find the learning environment that works best for them."
For more information on Skyview School, visit www.skyviewschool.org.