Students benefit from interdisciplinary learning during River Week    

Students walk on the bank of the river.

It was the perfect weather for River Week. Along the Cache la Poudre River, the trees began to change colors from green to a soft golden, and a crisp, endless blue sky stretched out above without a single cloud. On one of the days, a bald eagle even sat observing from the trees as students worked on their assignments. 

During the first week of fall, Cache La Poudre Middle School students and staff took classes outside in the annual River Week tradition to use the world around them to continue their classroom studies. 

Each class that went outside had activities specialized for this week. Students learned about macroinvertebrates and tested water flow in science, practiced their poetry writing skills with the river as a subject, played music in a different environment and even took pictures for the highly anticipated photo contest. 

This experience offered many opportunities for interdisciplinary learning, a type of teaching that combines multiple academic disciplines into one activity and is a crucial element of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program offered at this school. 

Students study the river during River Week.

The learning that happens during River Week is something students carry with them long after they have left CLPMS, explained science teacher Alisa Hicks.  

For the last 13 years, Hicks has participated in this tradition with her classes, teaching skills to help them throughout their education.  

"I would say IB is more of a philosophy about teaching, so you are teaching respect for each other and the environment, you're teaching how to behave with others and working in groups," she said. "We use River Week to teach some of those skills in addition to science. I'm teaching them about ecology and respecting where we are and working together." 

This hands-on learning aspect stood out to Charlotte Padden, a seventh grader. 

Overall, she appreciates that teachers put in this effort to make it possible for students to come out here to learn during the week. Alongside classmate Ayah Hamid, they explained their current class activity. Both students took a photo of the river and used it to write a poem describing what they saw and felt. 

Padden enjoyed all she was learning in her classes but specifically mentioned science.  

"I think it helps for us to see it hands-on and to have the accomplishment of feeling like we found it ourselves, look at it ourselves and write down the data."  

Further down the river, the music from the seventh and eighth grade band carried down the trail. 

Students play musical instruments by the river during River Week.

Emerson Fotsch, a seventh grader playing clarinet, said River Week matters, and it feels good to take this time to appreciate the environment surrounding their school and, in a way, take care of it so the tradition can continue. 

Although some may wonder what students learned when the band journeyed to the river, Fotsch said he and his classmates found a new appreciation for the music, hearing it in a different environment. 

"It feels like we're more in touch with music when we have the river in the background, the music just sounds better," he said.  

Without a doubt, River Week is an incredible experience for students. It deeply connects them to their learning and school community. The one thing that unites students more than the excitement for the photo contest is the appreciation for having this opportunity and just how special it makes their school experience.  

As eighth grade Victoria Levick and a few other classmates walked down the river to find a new spot to study macroinvertebrates, they discussed how lucky they were to have this opportunity. 

"We're the only school that has the river right behind our campus," said Levick. "I feel like it's just so special that we have the opportunity to come down to the river every year." 

A group of boys  by the river smile at the camera.