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Tripping out on camp and opera

March 16, 2008

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    March 16, 2008
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    Opera Carolina News

Tripping out on camp and opera

Some people would say that schools nowadays are less education and more test preparation. At the elementary level, state-required end-of-grade tests lurk like an ominous storm cloud that gathers strength throughout the year.
Yet we are lucky to live in an area where many educators still believe kids learn in a variety of ways.

Within the past few weeks, some lucky fifth-graders at Furr and Wolf Meadow elementary schools got to see first-hand how exciting education can be when they experienced some unique field trips.

The 125 fifth-graders from Furr spent three days and two nights at Camp Thunderbird, just over the S.C. line on Lake Wylie. Activities focused on both science and social studies.

A living history trail took the students back to 1805, where they met colonial folk, checked out a pioneer house and got to try their hand at some of the daily tasks, like chopping wood.

There was also a compass game to help learn directions, and a science fair, in which students rotated to do various experiments.

Besides the activities that aligned with school curriculum, much emphasis was placed on team building and self-esteem.

The kids had the chance to try a zipline, perform a high-ropes challenge and improve communication with building activities.

"It was all about setting goals," teacher Quay Lowder told me. "It was a wonderful trip, and I think the kids are closer now than ever.

"It was such a cool thing to see them cheering each other on, and really lifting each other up," Lowder said. "There was a girl who was really apprehensive about doing the zipline, and it was amazing to see the way her classmates supported her. They really helped her through it, and she did it!"

Student Avery Price agreed: "It was a great opportunity to see the fun and crazy side of your teacher and to build up your confidence. It was so much fun!"

Wolf Meadow fifth-graders had a different but still interesting field trip experience. They piled aboard buses for a night performance of Opera Carolina's production of Verdi's "Aida" at Charlotte's North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

Music teacher Laura Cook had spent weeks before teaching the plot and main points of the production, so the children would not be confused, because it is sung in Italian.

They got the chance to sit in the front rows before the start of the show to see how the stage was set.

They got to talk and ask questions with the lighting director and even watch a run-through of one of the scenes.

"It's great exposure, and an opportunity that they might not normally get," teacher Faith Donkor told me. "Going at night was an exciting experience, and I think it really enhanced their learning.

"Mrs. Cook did a lot of preparation beforehand, which really helped them understand," Donkor said. "As with any field trip, the more preparation they have, the more they will enjoy the experience."

Student Marina Casales enjoyed the trip and was amazed by the way the actors could sing: "It was really fun and interesting. I would go see another opera."

Since both schools plan to repeat the trips in the future, it sounds as if many other students will have these exciting opportunities.

GOT WEST CONCORD NEWS? Amy Reiss would like to hear about people, achievements and events, large or small, in West Concord. Contact her by e-mail at areiss@charlotteobserver.com; send postal mail to her in care of Cabarrus Neighbors, 371 Concord Parkway N., Concord, NC 28027; or call 704-786-2185 and leave a message.

Amy West
Charlotte Observer