Experiential Learning in Action – 7th Grade Class Trip
7th Grade Team


A highlight of the 7th grade experience at Forest Ridge has long been our overnight outdoor experiential trip. Each new September, we pack up and head off to a camp in the Olympic National Park, on the shores of the beautiful Lake Crescent. While it might seem like a logistical challenge to plan this trip so early in the year, it is very intentionally placed at the beginning of the 7th grade year as an opportunity to step out of our campus and focus on building a community of belonging within our class.

This particular trip is also focused to support the earth science curriculum we cover in science during the 7th grade year. The hands-on data collection and observations we can experience on the shores of the lake, along Barnes Creek, and hiking all the way to the top of Mt. Storm King allow discovery and understanding beyond the traditional classroom and provide real life examples we can revisit in pictures and memories to enhance our inquiry-based lab work throughout the year. We are able to see first-hand how geological forces are changing and shaping the earth, as well as the impact of human interaction on the environment. This additionally enhances the 7th grade social studies curriculum of “Modern Global Issues,” where one key area explored is the natural tension between competing stakeholders using the same resources and spaces. We learn the perspective of the local S’Klallam people on topics like the restoration of the Elwha River Valley after dam removal, and the heritage knowledge and connection they hold in the lands of the Olympic Peninsula.

As we hike up Mt. Storm King together, some of the best learning is actually what we discover about ourselves and each other. Getting away from our normal routines and groups at school, surrounded by the beautiful sights and sounds of the natural world, we are able to breathe more deeply, take more time to listen to each other, and feel the sense of place and peace that the old growth forest holds.

We also learn that although the challenge of hiking a mountain path isn’t within everyone’s comfort zone, we can connect over that shared experience of stretching ourselves to try new and difficult things. We connect over the hands that reach out to steady us on a slippery patch of trail, the silly songs we sing to help us cover the miles, and the moments of awe at the top when we can see back down to the lake and all the way across to Canada. We all learn more about our own personal strengths, and have time for self-reflection that helps us set growth goals for the year ahead. By the time we get to our closing campfire, the 7th graders have made dozens of tiny new connections that help us form a stronger sense of who we are together as a community.