E-Term Highlights: Experiential learning at Eastern Mennonite School

By Christine Coddington, Communication specialist

L to R: Environmental – Key West/Everglades, Mennonite Disaster Service – Florida, Museum of Illusion – Philadelphia

With 17 trips, 37 dedicated faculty and staff, and numerous chaperones, over 270 students embarked on unforgettable journeys filled with enriching experiences. Groups went hiking, biking, and learned about the environment, theater, and self-care. Each had a service day, collaborating with non-profits to reinforce compassion and community service. Whether local or out-of-state, students gained new perspectives, appreciated a larger world, and formed lasting friendships.

Middle School Experiences: Philadelphia, Williamsburg, and Local Water Explorations
The 8th-grade E-Term trip to Philadelphia included a service project and exploration of the city’s rich history and culture. Students, working in small groups, planned their day – visiting museums, art galleries, and monuments. A highlight was appearing on the jumbotron at a Phillies baseball game, wearing neon yellow hats. Meanwhile, the 7th graders traveled to Williamsburg Christian Retreat Center, engaging in team-building activities, including meal preparation. They learned about early American settlers at Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Mariners’ Museum through hands-on activities, bringing history to life.

The 6th graders explored water and ecosystems. They spent a day at a local lake fishing, canoeing, and studying insects, fostering team building and class bonding. Another day, they traveled to Riven Rock to release trout and enjoyed discovering crawfish in the river. They also visited a water treatment facility providing practical insight into the water treatment processes. The week concluded with a memorable campout, marking the end of their water adventures.

Key West and Everglades
The E-Term trip to Key West and the Everglades was transformative, with activities showcasing the natural beauty and emphasizing conservation. Students kayaked through red mangrove tunnels, enhancing their communication skills and learning about the ecosystem. Encounters with diverse wildlife enriched their experience. At Bahia Honda State Park, they deepened their understanding of marine life, particularly sea turtles. In the Everglades, they toured the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center and the Nike Missile Site, reflecting on the intersection of wildlife and human history. The trip ended with an exhilarating airboat ride, observing alligators and birds in their natural habitat.

Self-Care – Local
The self-care E-Term week offered valuable stress management tools and strengthened students’ sense of community. Activities included yoga, barre classes, and visiting local businesses. Students enjoyed time at the Aristocat Cafe, White Oak Lavender Farm, and a service project at Willow and Pine Flower Gardens. Creative activities like crafts, reading, and journaling encouraged self-expression and introspection.

Common Themes and Cherished Memories
Despite the diversity of E-Term experiences and locations, cherished memories are a common thread. Bonding during car rides, walks, shared experiences, overcoming challenges, and service projects will be the lasting takeaway. The students at Eastern Mennonite School make these moments enjoyable, and we at EMS feel blessed to continue the tradition of E-Term.