Experiential Immersion

Wasatch Academy is launching a new signature experiential education program scheduled for May 18-21.  Spearheaded by Dr. J. Dianne Brederson, Assistant Head of School for Academics, and Dr. Joel Barnes, Wasatch Academy’s Director of Experiential Learning and Sustainability, students will have four days of “Experiential Immersions (EIs)” that emphasize interdisciplinary, experiential learning focused on real-world topics and projects, and valuable life skills. During EIs students will be encouraged to explore beyond their comfort zones and experience intensive learning outside the classroom. The “EI’s” will place faculty teams from different departments with small groups of students with diverse academic interests and personal backgrounds.  EI’s will culminate in a community-wide Celebration of Learning assembly on May 23.

The EI offerings for the Seniors and Juniors will be blended into the itineraries of the traditional Senior Class Trip and the annual Junior River Trip.  Freshman and Sophomores will learn the details of EI offerings in the coming weeks and register for one of their choices by the end of April.

Senior Class Trip EI

The Senior Class trip is one of Wasatch Academy’s traditions and one that creates bonds and memories that last a lifetime.  The Senior Class trip this year will be modeled after trips in the past while incorporating experiential immersion activities that are meaningful and academic.  The EI theme of the Senior Class Trip is “Rites of Passage” – what does the rite of passage look like in other countries? How is the rite of passage celebrated? What does it mean to earn it vs. getting it because of age alone? The seniors will create a slideshow and video that will be presented to students, faculty, and parents on commencement weekend.

Junior River Trip EI

The Junior River Trip on the Deso/Gray Canyons on the Green River will have four separate paddle groups with limited contact with one another as they travel downriver.  Each group will have two faculty members who facilitate mini-EI’s on a daily basis. The EI’s will integrate standards from the visual arts, kinesthetic arts, adventure education, literature, natural sciences, and cultural history. “Watershed Wisdom” is an example of one of the EI’s given on the trip. Students will understand the concept of a watershed as a fundamental element of all landscapes and the essential role of rivers and streams in landscape ecology. Using the banks of the Green River as our classroom and laboratory, we will connect with the power and persistence of rivers as the veins and arteries of the Colorado Plateau landscape, and with water as our physical connection with life on Earth.  Other EI’s include Build a Colorado Plateau sandcastle, a stargazing lesson, and learn the history of Green River exploration.

A Sample of Offerings for Freshman and Sophomores

Hands-on Life Skills

In this EI, you will learn some basic and essential life skills that will come in handy your entire life. This is a hands-on course, and you can expect to be engaged in work that is fun and maybe even a little dirty. We will learn things like basic car maintenance (dealing with a flat tire and changing the oil), how to best nurture a baby, sew a button, complete a job application, or plan an exciting vacation trip. While we have a variety of activities planned, we will also be open to student interests to guide our way through our four days together. Students will be asked for feedback on what they consider to be essential skills that they want to develop. Teachers and students will collaborate to determine the life skills to be explored.

The Worldly Kitchen

This EI is designed as a smaller version of The International Day and Ethnic Food Court in April that engages the entire WA community. Activities include selecting and adapting recipes, cooking, sharing, and eating cuisine from the various cultures represented by the students enrolled in The Worldly Kitchen; planning shopping lists and shopping for ingredients; exploring various world markets; attending a cultural food tasting experience; watching exciting films that have cultural culinary subjects; and working in teams to design an international cookbook that includes student recipes and photographic documentation of cooking and eating during the activities.

Rock Climbing and Geology

Every rock climbing venue presents new challenges to climbers because of its unique rock texture, composition, and environment. All rock climbers are thus empirical geologists because of the direct personal experience they have with a variety of rock types. This class is designed to expand the climber’s knowledge of the rock to include the geologic process involved its creation and sculpting. We will climb at a number of areas that have experienced various geologic histories and that are composed of diverse rock types. Such detailed study of the rocks will allow us to comprehend many important geologic concepts such as rock classification, geologic time, weathering, and erosion. We will trace the geologic events that created the rock at each venue and scrutinize the weathering process that have created every hold on which we rely. We will also introduce all of the skills necessary for top rope rock climbing. We will also cover basic anchor systems and basic physics topics related to rock climbing. This AI will involve many experiential activities, labs, and explorations to further understand the concepts throughout these disciplines.

Words and Pictures:  communicating through graphic novel

This course will explore the media of comic strips, comic books, graphic novels, and works in diverse media inspired by these. Students will study the history (and prehistory) of the form, critically analyze multiple exemplars, contrast works, and ultimately produce their own works of static visual storytelling.

Food Culture: The Botany of Desire

You are invited to watch a 2-minute video that serves as an introduction for “Food Culture:  The Botany of Desire” one of the EI offerings for Freshman and Sophomores.  “The Botany of Desire” examines our species’ role in nature and challenges the idea that humans are the sole drivers of domestication. Michael Pollan looks closely at our relationship with the apple, the tulip, and the potato, and shows how each plant has evolved to gratify human desires and thus has enticed us to help them multiply. Just who, he asks, is domesticating whom? By chronicling the evolutionary advantages enjoyed by plants that develop qualities favored by people, Pollan leads the reader to consider how we stand in relation to our fellow species.”  We will use Pollan’s book and documentary as a guide for exploring the relationship between humans and plants.  We will then, do some research into how this has shaped our local Utah environment. This will culminate with a 10-minute segment to add on to Pollan’s documentary about our home county.

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