So long, Ecamp

May 16, 2019 by

Published May 17, 2019

MELROSE — A longstanding school science program for fifth graders is coming to an end, a casualty of ever-changing state educational standards.

Ecamp, which was held last year at Nature’s Classroom in Yarmouthport and at the Alton Jones Environmental Camp at the University of Rhode Island, had been a longtime staple of fifth grade educational enrichment. But as educators pointed out in a recent memo to parents, Ecamp apparently wasn’t cutting it anymore.

The memo, signed by Supt. of Schools Cyndy Taymore and the principals of the city’s five elementary schools, states in part that Ecamp “was adopted many years ago. The goal at that time was to provide an enrichment activity outside of school that supplemented the science curriculum. With the new Science Standards and ever-changing academic expectations, this event no longer reinforces the curriculum to the extent that it had in the past.”

Parents took to Facebook to complain about the move. One said, “Go to any college or university and science takes place outside the classroom as much as possible. Trips to rivers and oceans and forests — that’s where college students are. So we are going to deprive our elementary students of the opportunity to explore where nature lives in favor of a Chromebook?”

Following is the complete memo from Taymore and the elementary school principals:

“Melrose prides itself on being a self-reflective district that seeks to provide the very best academic and social experience for all of our students. It was during this reflection with the elementary school administration and teachers following last year’s Ecamp experiences that questions arose. With the changes in the Massachusetts Science Curriculum Frameworks, we are finding a reduced connection to student learning. In addition, each year there are mounting challenges such as student dietary needs, full inclusion for all students physically and financially, cleanliness of overnight environments, safety for students and staff during overnight stays and volunteerism on the part of teachers and parents.

“This event was adopted many years ago. The goal at that time was to provide an enrichment activity outside of school that supplemented the science curriculum. With the new Science Standards and ever-changing academic expectations, this event no longer reinforces the curriculum to the extent that it had in the past.

“The district values the opportunity for grade five students to having a culminating elementary experience. It has been our goal to rethink what we have done in the past and look to what we can provide that is current and increases this 21st century skills for all students.

“A team of grade 5 teachers and administrators has been established to research other opportunities for multiple daytime opportunities that will incorporate relationship building, collaboration, and team building.

“Given these are all 21st Century skills our children need to gain confidence and the social awareness necessary to successfully transition into middle school, the following framework was developed. In May/June of 2020, all grade five Melrose Public School students will participate in a series of outings complete with off and on campus activities.

“On days 1 and 2, we will divide all grade 5 students in the district into two teams. The first team will attend one pre-arranged field trip for the day and the second group will attend another field trip. Next, on the second day, the two groups will switch, that way all grade 5 students will experience both field trip activities. We are looking to attend outdoor team building adventure type facility for each day. On the third day, all grade 5 students in the district will gather together on the Melrose High School campus where they will have a huge field day full of team-building activities, food and fun. Throughout the course of the day, faculty and staff from the MVMMS will have the chance to spend time with all students as well. By the end of these three days, students and staff will have had multiple opportunities to make friends, build relationships and feel confident about their transition into Melrose Middle School and beyond.

“This summer we will be inviting parents to work with us to plan and support this 3-day event. Change is difficult and we appreciate your support with making the changes.”

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