In Montessori school, there are no grade levels or grades given for work. Sanders does not give the students homework, except for one vocabulary-building lesson that isn't in the typical Montessori curriculum. But on their mountain trek, they learned things that could never be taught in a classroom.
"They set up their tents, they dug the ditch for the latrine, they even bushwhacked to the top of Spruce Knob," Sanders said. "They carried everything they needed in their backpacks about a mile from where they were dropped off. It was amazing. For some of them, it was learning how to leave home for the night."
Five employees of The Mountain Institute helped with all aspects of the learning experience. They had the tents at the site prior to the children's arrival, and helped the students set up camp.
Throughout the weekend, students did stream studies, learned orienteering using GPS and maps, and cooked all of their own food.
"The Mountain Institute put them to work. They might be a part of the cooking crew, or the go-out-and-get-wood crew," Sanders said. "And they taught the children that we do not waste food, telling them they should only put on your plate what you think you can eat."
The Mountain Institute does a pre-trip visit to the school, meeting with parents and students. They tell them what to expect, what to pack, and what the students will learn. This year's trip is planned for later in the fall than last year's trip, so they will be in cabins at Canaan.
Sanders praised the parents at Mountaineer Montessori for their support and enthusiasm, both in giving their time and financially supporting the mountain trip and other adventures.
Back in the classroom, Sanders carries the nature-themed lessons throughout the school year. She's studied with an herbalist and creates teas, remedies and tinctures from nature.
"I also work with flower essences," she said, "that work with the emotional part of healing." She raises bees and lives with her son, a dog and two cats in South Hills. Jack is a sophomore at George Washington High School where he plays soccer, runs track and cross-country.Reach Sara Busse at sara.bu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.