Many schools boast of their experiential learning curriculum listing examples of hands-on learning in the classroom. Although important, Peak Week offers the next level of such activity; it is authentic immersion, a minimum four-day plunge into pure experience of any given field predesigned by Sierra Canyon community members. The efficacy of Peak Week and part of its great power resides in not just the profound impact it makes in the moment, but also the relevancies beyond the calendar week as the following student testimonials proclaim.
Mehima Pruthi (’19) chose “Behind the Scenes of the Medical Profession” as her Peak Week based upon her desire to be pre-med in college. She is already linking her experience in Peak Week to her Pre-Med Club, newly minted this year, encouraging her fellow members to become first aid and CPR certified, something she acquired during the Peak Week course.
Ben Lee (’19) enjoyed the “Recording Arts Development” course and said: “If you’re someone who wants to make music or even just record your own stuff, it was perfect.” He also found the instructor “extraordinary”, someone who worked with him “one on one” to refine musical talents, cut actual tracks and even gave him his contact in case he wanted to do an internship with his company on audio engineering in the future, a field about which Ben is passionate.
Josh Carlin (’19) and JD Hernandez (’19) both maintained modest expectations about the subject of their Peak Week course, “Adrenaline Filmmaking”, claiming they registered because they liked the instructor, Mr. Garcia. What they learned about filmmaking far exceeded their initial thoughts as just a handful of students made a movie by covering every role from acting and directing to scouting out great settings through exploring Los Angeles. Commenting on this type of education, Josh enthusiastically beamed: “I strongly believe experiential learning is important to broaden student's knowledge of extracurricular activities and expand ones comfort zone.”
In a combination course of art and engineering, "Molten Metal Works," Hunter Felipe (’21) was delighted to find out that the education would immediately be hands-on. He commented: “I expected that the Peak weak would be more of watching…the instructors weld and work with metal. But actually, I was surprised with us being able to fully work with tools and metal on the first day.” In addition, Aidan Jones (’20) was equally impressed and engaged, opining that he would like to see this kind of work at SC. “I think it would be beneficial to have a welding space at Sierra Canyon to create artistically and to learn a valuable skill. Even the in the four days I spent at molten metal works, I learned a great deal about welding, and would hope to further my knowledge of welding at Sierra Canyon.” At the end of the course, in addition to individual projects, the group created a metal Sierra Canyon crest that will shortly be displayed as evidence of their great nexus between art and science.
Brenna Bruggeman (’22) attended the "Italy Peak Week" course. Students were told to study up on everything from Renaissance art to Florentine history to where to find the best truffles including taking on a trip-long scavenger hunt that challenged them to embrace Italian language and culture. Of the experience, Breanna wrote: “This year peak week was something I will never forget. I learned so much not just about Italy, but about being independent and how to make the most of a trip…Ahead of time, we did research on the best places to eat and coolest places to visit. I'm glad we did this because this was how I made the most of being there.”
Perhaps it was Aristotle who first got it right about learning by doing when he wrote the following in a book on ethics largely considered to be dedicated to his son, Nicomachus:
For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building…so too we become just by doing just acts…brave by doing brave acts.
We have the opportunity to create a tribute to all of our students by putting such wisdom into action. Our children deserve the best of our efforts to educate and engage them. Peak Week represents windows into as many worlds as our instructors’ imaginations can conjure and our participants bravely experimented in new fields whose experiences have clearly inspired them to learn forward into the future.