Sixth graders embark on overnight trip

By: Amanda Calzada, Placer Herald Correspondent
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There certainly is a benefit for having reached sixth grade at Breen Elementary School. For these lucky students, they recently embarked on their first school-related overnight trip. The sixth-graders are at Sly Park Environmental Education Center, a residential outdoor school that stands in the Eldorado National Forest. Breen, along with Rocklin Academy and a school from Elk Grove, will head to Sly Park Nov. 2-6 under the supervision of teachers and parent chaperones. Responsible high school students seeking community service hours and an adventure also accompanied the students for the week. Most of the students anticipated the novelties like rock-climbing, identifying trees and taking night hikes along with astronomical activities. “I’ve always wanted to stargaze, but I’ve never looked through a telescope at night,” said sixth-grader Payton Pitzer. The curriculum offers students a spectrum of science. Outside of astronomy, campers are educated about biology, geology and energy. Students will analyze the effects of human influence on the environment. Other enrichments of the program include hiking to exercise and wilderness survival skills. Students are challenged to engineer and construct their own shelter before ending the day with skits and music. “Students, visiting staff and chaperones are rewarded with the knowledge they gain as they ‘do’ science with our full-time, certificated teaching staff. Throughout their stay, students also learn cooperation, problem solving and team building,” said Phil Romig, Sly Park principal. While it’s a new experience for the sixth-graders, planning the annual trip has become “second nature” for teacher Wendy Raemaker of Breen Elementary. Although it is her 12th year teaching in the Rocklin Unified School District, she has eight years of teaching in the Sacramento region where she also orchestrated the Sly Park trips for more than 10 years now. Her experience allows her to notice how the program has changed over its 30 years of existence. “They have definitely done a good job of incorporating the California teaching standards into the activities,” she said. Originally Sly Park targeted science in its activities, but now the park focuses on additional academic concepts, too, like language arts and math.