At the end of July 2017, incoming 7th graders took a trip as part of the Robinson Middle School Transition Program. During a 3-day, overnight adventure, students explored the faraway reaches of the island – the mountain town of Utuado, the great city of Ponce and the idyllic areas of La Parguera and Cabo Rojo. They were accompanied by a team of Robinson’s finest (and fearless): Thomas Novak (intrepid Academic Dean), Myriam Medina (rock-star Middle School Science teacher), and Scott Morison (rising 6th-grade teacher). After a long and winding trip to Utuado, they arrived at Puerto Rico’s Central Mountain range or Cordillera Central, where cultural history, biology and environmental sciences came to life. Students hiked the trails along the Río Tanamá and cooled off on a swim through river caves while observing the geological formations, as well as bats in their natural habitat. The adventure continued with a zip line tour over the majestic forest canopy. Once back on solid ground, they learned about agriculture in Puerto Rico by touring an organic farm before crossing the Río Tanamá on foot over La Jamaka, a 150-foot suspension bridge, just like Indiana Jones!
Next stop: Ponce! Finally, the group checked into the classic Hotel Meliá de Ponce, where many students bravely faced their first night in a hotel without their parents. Students proved their independence as they bonded with friends both old and new to Robinson School. In fact, they were having so much fun that some even forgot to call home! The next morning, the group toured two of Ponce’s most popular landmarks – Plaza de las Delicias and Parque de las Bombas. From there, they visited a local foster home to participate in service-learning activities, a central Robinson teaching strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Robinson students joined their new friends for a BBQ lunch and afternoon filled with playing pool, billiards and a water-balloon battle.
Their next stop was La Guancha boardwalk in Ponce for an afternoon of fun, shopping and feeding the pelicans before spending the night in picturesque La Parguera. After an early wake-up call and a hearty breakfast, the students spent their final day exploring the western side of the island. Students enjoyed a relaxing morning at Playa Sucia in Cabo Rojo, hiking along the ocean cliff trails and then catching some waves. An afternoon stop at a pineapple farm in Lajas found students learning about the pineapple growth process and sampling the freshly picked fruit. After lunch, the adventure continued as students boarded a private glass-bottom boat in La Parguera to spend the afternoon with local fisherman and guide, Tito. They observed and got up close and personal with the many sea creatures Tito fished that morning in the local reef. Have you ever had an octopus stuck to your head? Our 7th graders have! They ended their trip by parking the glass-bottom boat in the bioluminescent bay, learning about the process behind the glowing water, and then jumping in and swimming with the microorganisms, watching their skin sparkle.
Robinson designs experiences like this one for students to continue building on the foundations of their IB education and ease the transition from elementary to middle school. This outdoor adventure provides experiential learning in a non-traditional setting, connects the classroom to the real-world, and builds student self-confidence. Students apply IB PYP social and emotional skills to face new challenges, like entering Middle School. Along with learning about the history, culture and natural environment of Puerto Rico through firsthand experience, students bond and strengthen the support system that will see them through their middle school experience. We are happy to report that our new Middle School students demonstrated the character and love of learning that makes Robinson such a special school. They expertly grasped the interconnectedness between nature, history, and culture by applying thoughtful inquiry and reflection. Most importantly, they proved that they’ve got what it takes! They displayed tolerance, resilience, compassion and self-reliance – all of which will see them through Middle School and other major life transitions with a sense of security and community. With that, we wish our new Middle School students the very best as they embark on this latest adventure.
What a great way for students to truly get to know their island!