At French American our students learn in and out of the classroom. This experiential learning provides genuine opportunities for students to explore first-hand their relationship with nature, the environment, and each other.
A student’s journey to becoming better-acquainted with the world around them begins in kindergarten, when students travel one hour north of San Francisco to Marin's Slide Ranch for an overnight trip. In late May, the students participate in a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, gardening, making bread, feeding animals, making s'mores, and camping in tents.
The voyage continues through the lower school years—with trips gradually expanding in length, scope, and distance from home, further cultivating autonomy and self-confidence.
Our first graders spend two nights at Happy Valley, discovering the ecosystem of the beach, understanding the importance of taking care of our planet, learning about plants, the water cycle, solar energy, and our carbon footprints. Second graders continue their discovery of a new environment (snow!) at Bear Valley in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Third-grade students travel to Monte Toyon in the Santa Cruz foothills to study marine biology and visit tide pools at the beach, and learn about the planets, constellations, native plants, and wildlife. “The breathtaking views seen on our night hike turned our “city kids” into nature enthusiasts. Strong friendship bonds were formed as the students braved narrow trails and respected the wilderness,” reflected one 3rd-grade teacher.
Fourth-grade students spend five days in nature at the Coloma Outdoor Discovery Camp. And 5th graders culminate their lower school bilingual education with an exchange trip to Strasbourg, France. “In 5th-grade our families host a French child for two weeks; and later our students travel to France to visit their correspondents in Strasbourg. That experience is life-changing, because it develops the self-confidence that only comes with a genuine sense of achievement,” said Marie-Pierre Carlotti, Lower School Principal.
6th grader Brady reflected on his trip to Strasbourg in 5th-grade. “Being away from our parents and having to say what we need and having that sense of freedom, I think it really made us more mature. I also came back feeling more like a hardened traveler," — ready for third-language studies, linguistic and cultural excursions in middle school!