Astronomy and MAP classes take field trips to enhance learning

December 7, 2009 — by Girish Swaminath

Saratoga High astronomy and junior MAP students have experienced the real-life, pragmatic applications of their courses’ curricula by embarking on field trips. They had a chance to appreciate the material they continue to study during the semester.

MAP English 11 and MAP English 11 Honors students visited the Monterey and Salinas area on Nov. 23 in order to gain some background information about the life of internationally-acclaimed author John Steinbeck. According to English teacher Kerry Mohnike, the students visited three locations: the National Steinbeck Center, a farm run by Chris Bunn and Cannery Row in Monterey. They also got a chance to watch a biographical video about Steinbeck’s life, to learn about agriculture by physically working on the fields and to participate in a ‘digital scavenger hunt’ in Monterey.

Mohnike hopes that students can acquire some knowledge by stepping into Steinbeck’s shoes and experiencing the conditions of his life, as they began reading “The Grapes of Wrath,” one of Steinbeck’s most popular novels.

“After going on this trip, I definitely hope that [the students] comprehend the biases and negative stereotypes held against farmers, especially during the early 20th century,” said Mohnike. “Farmers are often thought of as ignorant but as students have embarked on this novel and had the experience of working on the farm, I do hope that they appreciate them for enduring the struggles they have recently faced.”

Mohnike also desired for students to have fun, while keeping in mind these lessons and inspiring them to write.

“[Students] need to learn that they too can write about any topic as well as Steinbeck as long as they are motivated and write from the heart,” said Mohnike.

The astronomy classes also planned an excursion to the De Anza planetarium on Dec. 3 so students could get a chance to better appreciate the study of astronomy. Science teacher Jill McIntyre truly enjoyed the trip.

“The students laid back and watched a show on black holes on the dome-shaped screen,” said McIntyre. “They also were able to see the night sky with all the stars and constellations, which is projected by a massive million-dollar machine owned by the university.”

McIntyre believed that students truly loved this experience and learned a lot from it.

“Students hopefully appreciated the beauty of the night sky and the complexities of the arrangement of constellations by watching this show,” said McIntyre. “As a result of weather, we had to cancel our star party and I hope that this was a good substitute for that.”

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