In most circumstances, the act of adding an extra day to school is loathed by students.
That was definitely not the case during Turlock Unified School District’s Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, however, as students and adults alike applauded the District’s decision to give sixth grade classes one more day at Foothill Horizons Outdoor School this fall.
“This is the best thing ever, thank you,” said Board member Eileen Hamilton. “I know when my kids went, they loved it. I have a daughter who has her Ph.D. in Conservation Ecology from UC Davis, she was a wildlife biologist, did the captive breeding program—and it all started with that.”
Turlock High School senior and School Board Representative Patrick Shields also voiced his support for the additional day. As well as participating in the program when he was in sixth grade, Shields returned last year to serve as a counselor.
“When I went, it was only three days,” said Shields. “But when students get an extra day, they do so much more and they bond so much more.”
During a Local Control Accountability Plan update provided to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Assistant Superintendent Heidi Lawler said that TUSD decided to add the fourth day in order to give sixth graders more opportunities to build character and collaborate with their peers. The additional day will also allow time for a study trip to Moaning Caverns.
“The outdoor education program operated by the Stanislaus County Office of Education at Foothill Horizons Outdoor School in Sonora is a five-day program,” said Lawler. “Turlock Unified School District, historically, has paid the cost for its students to attend a three-day modified version of the program.
“The four-day program will expand these opportunities as well as science learning through the lessons provided by the naturalists,” continued Lawler.
With this fourth day, students will receive additional learning opportunities from Foothill Horizons naturalists, which are highly trained instructors that make learning “come alive” with hands-on, cooperative lessons in the foothills of the Central Sierra.
Students will also be able to further explore the life, traditions, family structures and social interactions of 19th century Me-Wuk people, which were indigenous to the region.
Lawler said that the additional expense to expand to four days will cost TUSD approximately $55,000, which will be supplied through lottery funds.
“The District is looking forward to providing the additional learning experiences as well as opportunities for personal growth,” said Lawler. “Students will develop skills in team-building, problem-solving and collaboration due to the additional time at Foothill Horizons.”