Experiential Education

As part of a 21st Century Education, experiential learning is a major part of an Oakwood education occurring daily in the classroom and on campus or from afar. This can be as simple as the Lower School literary character parade to social study lessons integrated with our Outdoor Agricultural Student Eco-Station (OASES) micro-farm or through local field trips, long-distance travel, internships, and independent studies. These age appropriate experiences are a strong tradition to augment learning at Oakwood. When learning stretches beyond the classroom, students have the opportunity to test their knowledge and understandings in the world and become more adaptive, accepting, open-minded, self-aware, and confidant.

In the Lower School, experiential learning is close to home and in the classroom. In Middle and Upper Schools, in addition to experiences taking place throughout the year, a week is dedicated to Off-Campus Experiential Education, and our older students report that this week is one of the most important learning experiences they have at Oakwood. Our off-campus experiential education provides students with an opportunity to develop independence and self-reliance, work and live closely with a small group, enhance critical thinking skills, increase a sense of empathy for others, and develop an understanding of and respect for the differences and similarities of varying cultures.

Lower School

Local day field trips or on-site hands-on learning experiences are planned to enhance student learning and to develop a sense of community and independence in our students. Greenville and eastern North Carolina provide abundant opportunities for trips including the ECU Arts Smart program, local museums, and other sites. The Lower School Science program frequently incorporates local experts, often from East Carolina University, such as paleontologists and marine biologists to enhance the learning in the classroom, Lower School science lab and OASES micro-farm. A favorite field experience every year for the second and third graders occurs when the Camp Flintlock staff arrives, spending the day dressed in period costumes to teach and engage the children with Colonial American life. Third graders annually enjoy an on-site visit from Morehead Planetarium where they explore concepts of astronomy.

Middle School

Fourth graders study American history and travel to Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia for two days where they participate in many hands-on activities. Highlights in Jamestown include watching and listening to the cannon blast at James Fort, going aboard the Susan Constance, seeing the Native American hunting and fishing tools, learning to clean a deer skin, and hollowing out a log to make a canoe. Highlights in Williamsburg include visiting the wig shop, blacksmith shop, artillery magazine, tin man’s shop, joiner’s shop, and the palace and capitol. Participating in African dances, being the jury for a trial, training as a regiment, staying in cabins, and eating at Shield’s Tavern are also highlights.

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Fifth graders take their environmental science and marine biology knowledge and understandings gained in the classroom through STEAM education and travel to Beaufort, NC staying at Duke Marine Lab for two days, where they participate in a variety of exploratory, discovery, and laboratory experiences. Some of the activities included in this adventure are trawling or seining for wildlife samples, observing plankton under microscopes, dissecting sea urchins and/or fish, building and testing their own model sea creatures, exploring a marine ecosystem on land, and/or exploring the Intercostal Waterway on a marine vessel. Due to the seasonal nature of the excursions, the trip changes every year, adding to the excitement of being a fifth grader and getting to go on the next Duke Marine Lab adventure.

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Sixth graders enjoy cultural arts experiences while lodging for two nights at Camp Caraway in Sophia, North Carolina. During camp time, students engage in team building activities led by the camp staff. Their cultural experiences begin at Sawtooth Center for Visual Arts where they explore a variety of art activities including options such as large frame printing, metalwork and digital printing. The third day, they engage in a docent led tour of the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh on the return trip back to Oakwood. Oakwood strives to develop well-rounded students with strong understandings in all disciplines and in the human instinct to create. The sixth grade trip immerses students in important arts and humanities learning experiences and is invaluable in this endeavor.

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One of the most exciting Middle School traditions at The Oakwood School is the seventh grade class trip to Camp Cheerio, where for three nights, students enjoy the spectacular beauty and thrilling adventures that the North Carolina mountains have to offer. The trip is designed to build class community, allow students to challenge themselves, and foster an appreciation for the natural world. Every year, Camp Cheerio staff plans an exciting stay for our group. Students take part in outdoor challenge activities, which may include canoeing, hiking, zip lining, and a ropes course with low and high elements. Students always return with meaningful, personal stories from this adventure that they are certain to remember for a lifetime.

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Additional experiential learning for Middle School students includes optional opportunities to travel abroad during Spring Break. These opportunities are possible due to the initiative of Middle School staff who share their love for travel and thirst for knowledge about areas far and wide. Recent educational travel has included study of the tropical climates of Costa Rica and the ancient Mayan cultures at Machu Picchu in Peru. For Spring Break 2018, students will have the opportunity to join his adventurous group in exploring the geysers and glaciers of Iceland!

Upper School

Check out information and offerings for 2017-2020 here.

Each fall our students spend upward of a week on the activity of their choice on a particular trip near and far or through an internship/independent study. These trips are designed to foster independence and leadership and give students a sense of community with their classmates and the world around them. One intended goal of trips is to form bonds between students of different grade levels, so no preference is given to seniority in signing up. We encourage students to choose trips based on their interests and not their peer groups.

While our 8th graders travel as a class to Washington, D.C., our 9th through 12th graders choose from a range of trips that encompass various activities and interests, price levels, and distance traveled. Whether experiencing German culture, practicing Spanish with native speakers in Spain or Puerto Rico, visiting museums in New York City, serving others in Charleston, SC, touring college campuses, and more, Oakwood students benefit not only from the application of what they’ve learned in the classroom, but also from the maturity needed to accomplish experiences of this magnitude.

Closer to home, we also offer students the opportunity to pursue individual interests through a pre-arranged internship or independent study during the week. Past examples include working in an art studio creating a piece of art, shadowing a local cardiologist, and visiting the headquarters of a national non-governmental organization (NGO) in Washington, DC.

The US faculty has mapped out a four-year rotation of trips, spanning three price ranges and offering direct ties to various areas of study each year. The internship/independent study will continue to be an option for students each year. Also, 8th graders will continue to travel to Washington, D.C. as a class.

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