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School as Expedition

At MRH we have developed metaphors that are used in our schools to describe the teaching and learning that takes place there.

Middle School – “School as Expedition”
Students at MRH Middle School are immersed both inside and outside the classroom in a variety of experiences through the metaphor, “School as Expedition.” Learning expeditions are in-depth studies of topics that engage students through authentic projects, real-life studies, field work and service. Expeditions occur within the school walls when the community is brought into the classroom through expert guest speakers and outside of the classroom, on journeys to conduct fieldwork.

At MRH Middle School we involve students in active pursuit of their own questions. We teach them how to collaborate and to solve problems together. This happens both in the classroom and outside the classroom when we take our students into the real world on a series of expeditions. Expeditions offer our students a whole new set of problems to explore as they examine a variety of ecological habitats. Expeditions are sometimes as close as across the street. Other times our students board buses and travel miles out of state all the way to Tennessee or Alabama to study mountains or ocean ecology. On these trips our students build amazing relationships with each other and with their teachers. Equally important, they learn about our world and their relationship to it. Our students emerge at the end of their two years at MRH Middle School stronger, wiser, and gentler in their judgments about themselves and their peers. And certainly, they are better prepared as citizens and stewards of the earth.

What is an expedition?

Expeditions are shared studies that provide the opportunity to bring to life the best of middle school philosophy, real-world learning, and teaching for understanding. This creates a rigorous curriculum for MRH Middle School that focuses on important ideas and skills, and addresses the "why" and "how" of learning in addition to the information learned. In each expedition, a complex concept is investigated from multiple perspectives. This integrated learning experience is created as each discipline is incorporated into the study. In town expeditions include the MetroLink, Forest Park, LREC, Finance Park, South Tech, Rockwood Cave, The Eagleton Courthouse, Whole Foods and the Soulard Market.  MRH students travel to The Great Smoky Mountain Institute in Tremont Tennessee, and to the Sea Lab at Dauphin Island in Dauphin Island, Alabama. Shared studies involve weeks of instructional time and may involve more time in the major discipline for the study.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should my student attend each expedition?
The students grow emotionally, socially, academically, and physically through hands-on learning through real-life experiences.  Students discover that they are capable of more than they thought possible, as well as discover their personal strengths.  The experiences on these trips cannot be duplicated in the classroom.  They discover their connection and role with nature.  Those who do not attend each of the trips miss out on a huge social, academic, and field learning experiences that extends the MRH Middle School’s curriculum.

Does my child receive a grade for the work assigned on the expedition?
Yes, each learning experience is assessed. The content is aligned with the MRH Middle School curriculum.

Will there be a medical professional available on the expeditions?
Yes, a district nurse attends all over-night expeditions.

What if my student does not have all of the necessary packing list supplies to participate on the expedition?
If you need assistance in obtaining or borrowing items please let he middle school counselor know in advance of leaving. Items such as sleeping bags, backpacks, jackets, and flashlights can be checked out from the middle school for each trip without a fee. This information will be handled discretely.

If my child doesn’t want to go, what can I do?
Contact the middle school counselor. She can help in determining the cause for your child’s reluctance, and assist you in discussing with your child the importance of attending all educational experiences.

How can I contact my child while they are on an expedition?
If you need to contact your child while they are away at one of the expeditions, please contact principal Mike Dittrich or assistant principal John McCabe. They will locate and connect you with your child. If you are unable to reach them, you can call the expedition site directly.

The Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont

The Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont is a private, non-profit organization that works closely with the National Park Service to provide educational programs. Tremont is located along the Middle Prong of the Little River in the heart of the park. The park is a 520,000-acre National Park. Established in 1969, GSMIT is one of the first residential environmental education centers located within a national

It is approximately a 10.5-hour bus ride to Tremont. Two 56-passenger charter buses are used for the trip there and back. Students stay at the Caylor Lodge cabin-style dormitory.

As an expeditionary school, we believe that learning does not only take place in a classroom. This is an opportunity for our students to learn more about their environment, its importance, and the delicate balance between humans and nature. Tremont is about connecting people with the natural world.

Activities that students typically participate in include:

  • Salamander hunt
  • Night hike
  • Eight-mile hike
  • Walker Valley living history interviews
  • Poetry writing at the summit of the mountain
  • Native American naming ceremony
  • Literary readings - Thunder Rolling in the Mountain, by Scott O’Dell

Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Dauphin Island, Alabama

Dauphin Island Sea Lab is located on an island off the coast of Alabama. The lab has been conducting field research projects for schools and colleges since 1971. DISL’s mission encompasses marine science education, marine science research, coastal zone management policy and educating the general public through the Estuarium, DISL’s public aquarium. Located on the eastern tip of Dauphin Island, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, the DISL is surrounded by Mobile Bay, Mississippi Sound and the waters of the Gulf, making it perfectly situated for a wide range of marine science activity.

It is approximately a 14-hour bus ride from MRH. Two charter buses are used for the trip there and back. Students stay in dormitory-style lodgings while at Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

As with all of the expeditions, this is an opportunity to take student learning into the field and experience first hand what they have only read about in books. Students not only experience the ocean, but they also learn how the estuary affects and is affected by their actions at home.

Activities that students typically participate in include:

  • Scavenger hunt at the Estuarium
  • Water salinity, temperature, wave crest and wind speed testing
  • Identification of marine organisms collected during the day.
  • A trip on the lab’s research boat
  • Plankton seining and bottom sampling in the open ocean
  • A visit to historical Fort Gaines
  • A walk through a salt marsh
  • Exploration of a bird sanctuary
  • Squid dissection