The City of Scholarly Love

The 8th grade experience at Parker is guided by the convergence of many culminating principles that have defined our students’ years here as learners. Deep studies, critical thinking, and culminating projects paired with social and emotional growth are all hallmarks of a Parker education that coalesce in substantial and celebratory ways in the last months of our graduate’s careers.

Last week, our 8th grade class experienced one of those convergent moments as they traveled to Philadelphia for a week of immersive learning with their amazing chaperones, Derek Fox (8th Grade Advisor), Lynn Schuster (Director of Academics and DEI), and Claire Sherwood (Art). As Lynn explains, “The 8th graders have always had a final year marked with special milestones and leadership opportunities. It is a tradition that our students undertake deep studies and experience culminating celebrations. These celebrations make the work more meaningful, memorable, and important. Philadelphia is an example of this kind of moment. It is the culmination of a year spent studying American History and learning how to participate as an engaged citizen through the writing of their thesis. This trip gives them the opportunity to see how history was made, and how they are continuing that democratic tradition as critical thinkers and active participants in their communities.”

Derek Fox, who has guided the 8th grade through both of these academic experiences, adds, “As an educator, Philadelphia gives me the opportunity to watch these kids really step up and into the driver seat of their own education. Students were able to learn history with their peers by actually seeing history first hand. For example, the 8th graders saw the original Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, and they were in the same room where those famous pieces were collaborated, debated, and written over 300 years ago! Experiences like that make history alive, and they inspire exploration and curiosity – which is what their education is all about.”

Over the course of four days, our 8th graders certainly saw and experienced much to spark their various interests! Together, the group took an open-air bus tour of the city, visited the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, and explored the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They toured Eastern State Penitentiary, immersed themselves in interactive exhibits at the Franklin Institute, and even braved a twilight ghost tour. There was also plenty of walking, sightseeing, food adventures at Reading Terminal, and of course late night ice-cream.

The Philadelphia class trip is a learning experience in every sense, from traveling away from home to sharing meals and bonding even more closely with classmates. Regardless of how long our students have been together at Parker (more than a decade in some cases or just a few years in others) the Philadelphia experience strengthens their relationships, ones that will continue for years to come. But don’t take our word for it. Here are just a few reflections from our 8th graders that speak for themselves:

“For starters, Philadelphia is a very old city, rich with history, so the trip was important from a learning standpoint. However, the trip was also a great bonding experience, where we could interact with our classmates in a non-school environment.” “Personally, I think an 8th grade class trip is important because students who don’t normally talk to each other or hangout with each other get a better chance of knowing and understanding one another. Also the teachers and students get to bond more because you’re in different circumstances.”

“I got a chance to talk and laugh with classmates I don’t normally hang out with, and learned that most of our class likes sushi! I found things I had in common with friends, and we got to be with friends outside of school which hasn’t really happened since Covid.”“I think it was important because at a time when we are overwhelmed with schoolwork and stress at school, we got to have a break and have fun with our friends for a week. The trip acted as a bonding experience where we talked to people we wouldn’t normally talk to, and I think we overall became closer as a class.”

“I learned a lot more about some of my classmates that I wasn’t close with before the trip. I also learned that even though we had some obstacles along the way, in the end everything got resolved and now our class is even stronger and closer than it was before.”“I learned a lot of things about my classmates. For example, some people in my class that I haven’t hung out with all the time have a really great sense of humor and can make me laugh A LOT.”

“I think it was very important to get to know our fellow eighth graders in a non-school setting, and I feel like spending so much time together helped us resolve a lot of differences and reach some happy agreements about a lot of things that had gone unresolved before the trip.”“I learned that we are all unique and I think it was a very good opportunity to get to know all of my classmates even more deeply.”