Gifted children learn best when they can connect the classroom to the world around them. Real world experiences provide new information and perspectives on theories. Ricks Center provides multiple opportunities for these important field experiences. Within each curriculum unit, there are many field trips and excursions that allow students to experience what they are learning as it exists in the real world. Connecting the classroom to other life experiences is an integral part of the curriculum to increase relevance and authenticate learning.
Field experiences are directly related to the integrated unit the class is studying. Ricks Center students might find themselves in a University science lab, a bookbinding factory, a national park, a recycling center, a foreign country, a bank or a homeless shelter, learning directly about the world. Small class sizes and an integrated curriculum allow children to learn through these experiences and show them the relevance of what they are studying in relation to the real world.
One field experience has been a mainstay in the Upper School curriculum: River Watch. River Watch is a program in which volunteer groups gather water samples from designated waterways and analyze those samples for different chemical and biological parameters. Our students sample from the South Platte River at Grant-Frontier Park. In the field, participants measure air and water temperatures and stream velocity and note weather conditions on field data sheets. After this preliminary work, students collect water samples to be returned to Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) for heavy metal testing and gather additional water samples to be taken back to the school's lab. Students then test these samples for alkalinity, hardness, dissolved oxygen levels, and pH using standardized laboratory testing procedures outlined by CDOW. Resulting data are entered into their website and are then used by CDOW and other governmental organizations to assess the health of sampled waterways and measure compliance with the Clean Water Act.