Kids Discover the Trail! Ithaca Connects Students with Community Resources

May 31, 2016

IMG_1367Christine Sanchirico and Star Bressler, executive directors of the Ithaca Public Education Initiative and the Discovery Trail respectively, presented at a recent meeting of the Ithaca City School District Board of Education. “We’re here from IPEI and the Discovery Trail to celebrate our ongoing, 11 year collaboration with the ICSD to provide Kids Discover the Trail! Ithaca (also known as KDT! Ithaca),” expressed Sanchirico.

Each year, KDT! Ithaca provides learning experiences for all elementary school students, last year 2,857, with about 150 visits to the eight Discovery Trail organizations. A total of 29,450 students have participated in the program since its start in 2005.

Each elementary grade is linked with a Discovery Trail site. The site’s resources are aligned with grade-level curricula and state standards. Educators from the seven museums and the public library collaborate with ICSD classroom teachers ensuring the activities connect their learning to the resources and experiences available at each site. Pre-trip and post-trip activities are also important.

Board of Education members and Superintendent Dr. Luvelle Brown responded to their presentation with thanks for the community support from donors represented by the funds accepted by board action. IPEI and the Discovery Trail have created “one of the smartest things I’ve ever seen” said Eldred Harris who commented on the “knitting together of kids” with the social component. ICSD’s demographics show a large “wealth gap” but the distinctions are lessened by experiences students have with each other with their buddies from paired schools.

Brown shared that this is his first year experiencing KDT! Ithaca as a parent of a Kindergartner. One example of the well-executed program is the book with activity flier that accompanies each grade level and comes home for the student to share with the family.

Technology is also integrated into the trips. For example, this year a class used their ipads to make Venn diagrams comparing and contrasting themselves to their buddies.

Additional field trips are offered for classes to take with buddies. Last year over 100 classes attended additional “Buddy Up” trips that give children an additional opportunity to get to know each other. Teachers have begun to schedule “Buddy Up” trips in advance of the Discovery Trail trips so the students are already familiar with each other. “This has become an important step towards creating community among the many varied segments of our local population,” said Sanchirico.

Each year IPEI funds KDT! with donations from individuals, families, businesses and foundations in our community. IPEI welcomes gifts of any size to help cover KDT! expenses and allow all children to participate without a “field trip fee”.

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