Sunship Earth is a comprehensive environmental science program geared to 5th graders.
The on-site portion of the program lasts five days and four nights at the Sunship Study Station, a natural outdoor setting at T.R.E.E.’s Outdoor Classroom just west of Covington. The Sunship Earth staff, crew counselors, and classroom teacher combine efforts to provide a dynamic, effective learning experience. The teacher extends this program back at school, which encourages the students to continue to apply their learning beyond the classroom. Sunship Earth is a beginning unit rather than a culminating one.
Sunship Earth helps students understand how their world functions and gives them a special appreciation of that knowledge through their head, heart, and hands. Sunship Earth acquaints young people with basic understandings of how the earth’s life systems function (head), and helps them to better know the earth as their place in space and to appreciate the richness and the beauty of our planet through first-hand contact (heart). In addition, Sunship Earth strives to help young people see that they have a dual role as passenger and crew member on this “Sun-ship”, and finally, gives each student a chance to explore the personal significance behind this new awareness (hands).
The following are some important points you’ll want to know:
Sunship Earth has been run by T.R.E.E. for the past 20 years. Over 3,200 Orleans Parish school students have attended. The staff is highly trained, caring andcommitted.
A minimum of 12 adults supervise the class of approximately 30 students. Students are NEVER without supervision.
The class is divided into groups of five or six students by the teacher and each group issupervised by one of the school’s adult chaperones. The students receive direct instruction for the 15 stations from T.R.E.E. staff who provides for personal, quality learning for each child.
The remainder of the time (meals, “heart” activities, processing activities, campfire, crafts, etc.) is spent in whole class group.
The school provides a qualified person to give medications. A hospital is only 5 minutes from camp.
Students live in dormitory-type buildings. Boysand male chaperones from the school sleep on one side; girls and female chaperones from the school sleep on the other. A cinder block dividing wall and bathrooms are between the two sides.
Participants are fed by T.R.E.E. staff. Meals are tailored to fit children’s eating habits while still being nutritious and accommodating various eating styles (vegetarian). Snacks are provided throughout the day while on trails.
The cost of the program includes EVERYTHING! (Included in the cost is bus, insurance, camping fees, wholesome meals, snacks, all supplies for activities and crafts, and a staff of 1 adult for every 3 children.)
The days at the Sunship Study Station are extremely busy ones, filled with a complete schedule of exciting learning experiences.
The week at the Sunship Study Station is an extremely busy one. Each day is filled with a complete schedule of learning experiences. Listed here are some of the highlights of the week-the major program elements. Since specific scheduling may vary somewhat, this briefing sheet is designed to give a general idea of what the week will be like.
Students, teachers and parent volunteers are greeted and familiarized with the Sunship Earth grounds, dining hall and bunkhouse sleeping areas. Dinner is served and an evening workshop is conducted as an introductory activity of community building.
WELCOME ABOARD – An introductory activity of community building provides an exciting kickoff to the week and acquaints the students with the Sunship theme. As passengers on this planet, the students are given an important task for the week. Their mission is to find out how Sunship Earth operates, and how it’s human passengers can live in harmony with its’ “automatic pilot systems.”
TOUCH THE EARTH – Small groups led by parent chaperones depart from a centrally located “hub” where they use “magic paint” to discover the color and beauty in small things. The atmosphere is fun and the activities emphasize looking at the natural world in new ways, building awareness through all five senses, and awakening a “sense of wonder.”
MAGIC SPOTS – Each day there is time set aside for solitude. On Saturday, following the Touch the Earth Session, students locate their own magic spot which they’ll return throughout the week. Magic Spot time provides the opportunity for each child to develop an easy, quiet relationship with one particular natural space. At these times, they will use their Log Books which contain specially designed Magic Spot activities.
Saturday Afternoon, Sunday Morning, and Monday Afternoon
CONCEPT PATHS - One entire afternoon and two full mornings at the Sunship Study Station are devoted to a series of exciting learning experiences – the Concept Paths. In small groups lead by trained crew counselors, the students will learn seven key ecological concepts: energy flow, cycles, diversity, community, interrelationships, change, and adaptations. An official Passport (a booklet type of learning tool) provides the continuity throughout the week’s adventures. During the course of the week, the kids will experience fifteen different Concept Path activities. They will crawl inside a giant leaf to learn how green plants capture the sun’s energy. They will become birds to discover how the hummingbird is perfectly adapted to get nectar from flowers. When they complete their Passports, they will have a good understanding of how the Sunship’s ecological systems work.
DISCOVERY PARTIES - These activities are designed to encourage the students to discover for themselves the fascinating things that live on our Sunship. In “Lost Letters”, for example, small groups led by crew counselors head out in search of the meaning of a long-lost word. With the help of a set of clues, they make lots of exciting finds and eventually figure out the word for themselves.
IMMERSING ACTIVITIES - These activities are aimed at total sensory involvement with the natural world. In “Micro Parks”, each student becomes a “Park Ranger” who is in charge of setting up a miniature national park in a small area on the ground. Once the parks’ special attractions (moss, rocks, tiny plants, small critters, etc) are marked with flags, tours are held so that everyone can share their parks.
MEALS - At the Sunship Earth Station, we attempt to make every part of the day a learning experience. The menu removes the disguises from foods by relating the dishes to their original sources. Students learn how to cut back on energy waste at meal times, everyone learns the identities of the “Mystery Passengers”, and there are Discovery Announcements, poetry reading and sharing times about the day’s events.
CRAFTS - After dinner, students will have the opportunity to work on crafts that are compatible with the Sunship Earth theme.
CAMPFIRES - The warmth and community spirit of a campfire allows time to wind down from the busy day, to enjoy each others company and to roast and eat marshmallows.
Sunday and Monday Afternoons
THE JOURNEY HOME - After the regular campfire, a special campfire is held and an “ancient legend” is told concerning a group of people whose young ones embark on a journey down a river to discover the seven secrets of life (which correspond to the seven ecological concepts learned during the week) in order to help their people better understand the earth. The message is that the students, like the young ones in the story, must return to their people and share with them their newly gained understanding of, and feeling for the earth.
MODEL PLANETS - The students, in small groups, construct a “Miniature Sunship” on a small area of the ground. Using leaves, sticks, rocks, etc., they fill their model planet with “living things” and include all the necessary ecological support systems (examples of the seven concepts). Ambassadors travel around the “solar system” and share ideas. Many true to life situations take place creating differing circumstances on “Sunship Earth” illustrating in an exageratedway, similar happenings on the real planet.
SUNSHIP CONVENTION - To finish the week, the students are asked to examine their daily lives to think of something they can do to help keep the sunship in good working order. Their commitments to be better sunship passengers are recorded in their passports and are shared at the Sunship convention, attended by all crews. They depart for home on a note of personal responsibility.