We teach Science and Social Studies primarily through Learning Expeditions, 6-12 week investigations into key topics. Every fall, scholars embark on a three month social studies Expedition; every spring, they immerse themselves in a three month science Expedition. Expeditions integrate content knowledge and service-learning opportunities. Scholars gain a rich understanding of a subject and leverage this knowledge to strengthen their community.
Below are examples of Learning Expeditions conducted at Alma del Mar:
- The first grade Farm to Table Expedition began by exploring the important question: “Where does our food come from?” In their search for answers, scholars visited Alderbrook Farm to learn from the experts. After looking at maps of New Bedford and realizing that there are no farms in the city, they began exploring ways to get fresh food without a farm. First grade scholars planted their own garden in the school courtyard, growing spinach, arugula, green leaf lettuce, beets, eggplant, peas, green beans, and onions from seed. They concluded their Expedition with the question: “What is healthy food and how do people access it?” Through reading books, visiting Sharing the Harvest, and role-playing in class, scholars discovered that not everyone has the resources to access healthy food. In response, scholars donated food from their garden and helped prepare meals at a local organization that feeds the hungry. They also decided to donate the produce from the garden to the families in our school community.
- Second grade scholars at Alma del Mar completed a Learning Expedition focused on Immigration to New Bedford. Scholars began by exploring the reasons why immigrants might leave their home countries and move to the United States. In their search for answers, they explored case studies of the journeys of immigrants from Portugal, Cape Verde and Vietnam to New Bedford. Scholars interviewed local immigrants about their experiences, what led them to settle in New Bedford, and the challenges they faced making a home in a new country. By meeting with local immigrants and workers from the Immigrants’ Assistance Center, they were able to learn about immigration from people who have experienced it first-hand. Scholars then explored paths to citizenship, including the rights and responsibilities of being an American citizen. Finally, scholars compiled the stories they had collected through interviewing local immigrants and wrote a book telling the story of immigrants to New Bedford. This process allowed scholars to gain a better understanding of the people and cultures that have shaped their city, as well as the challenges faced by many of their parents and grandparents. Scholars also learned to conduct research by interviewing and practice their informative writing.