Mountain Sun Students Embark On Urban Adventure


April 1, 2019

Courtesy Photo

The Coyote Class at the Wollman Ice Skating Rink.

On March 3, Mountain Sun Community School's middle school class (coyote class), along with middle school lead teacher Daniel Sprinkle and Natural Play coordinator McNeill Mann traveled to New York City, arriving the morning of March 4.

The students played a large role in planning and executing the logistics of the trip, including creating a budget, navigating the city streets and helping decide which of New York's treasures they would visit. Each year, the Coyote class plans and completes an urban adventure and applies the skills they have learned through their outdoor expeditions to the "wilderness" of the big city. While they are all comfortable in the woods, an urban environment provides a new set of challenges.

"We were all really excited as we drove into New York," said Mary Ella Hastings, a Coyote student. "It was exciting to see the city from afar."

The Highline walk in New York City was the Coyote's first destination. From this vantage point, the students could see artwork, apartment buildings and all of the city streets waiting to be explored. They were also excited to identify plants along the walk as they observed urban nature. A highlight of day one was seeing the comedian, John Mulaney, as the students walked to enjoy fresh, New York pizza. Once their bellies were full, they walked to Time Square, which was described as "really cool and the most overwhelming part of the whole trip," said Huck Pearl.

The Coyote students planned a trip to New York as a way to learn more about the lives of immigrants, their history and their cultures. The students have spent a large part of their academic year learning about international human migration and immigration to the United States, particularly during the 20th century.

"It was so interesting to see how many families have stayed in New York since their families immigrated to the United States. There are so many places to go to in this country, but they choose to stay there. That's what makes New York cool: that there are so many cultures there," said Marley Stewart. "It was fascinating how many languages were being spoken on the streets. A lot of people were trilingual, and all the stores had signs in several languages."

On the first full day in the Big Apple, the students took a ferry to explore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. There, they walked around the base of the statue and took photos of their trip mascot, Pete the Cat. When the arrived at the Ellis Island Museum, they soaked up the experience of the 20th-century immigrant.

"Third-class citizens entered into the United States from Ellis Island," said Brady Odell. "They were the ones that had to be checked for diseases and had to pay $20 to enter the country. Some of them would just pass the same $20 backward so three or more families could enter the country with the same $20 bill."

From Ellis Island, the students traveled to Wall Street, Hamilton's Grave and the Tenement Museum. At the museum, the students saw the apartments immigrants lived in when they first arrived in the United States through Ellis Island. There were four families' apartments in the museum: an Irish family, a Puerto Rican family, a Chinese family and a Polish family.

"It was fascinating to see the different cultures through the family's decorations," said Livi Tarlton.

After a long day of walking and learning a lot about the history of immigration in New York City, the Coyotes spent their third day exploring the cuisine of different cultures. They ate bao in Chinatown, focaccia, fresh mozzarella and desserts in Little Italy, and they bought fresh bagels from a Jewish deli.

"It was awesome to really take in all of the cultures in New York," said Gabe Rood. "We all ate so much food and drank bubble tea. Then we went to an Off-Broadway Play to see 'The Play that Goes Wrong,' which is essentially a play inside of a play and everything goes wrong!"

By the time these Brevard natives explored New York City for three full days, they were eager to find a place to have free, unstructured play in the woods. Naturally, they went off to explore Central Park. There, they played with a Frisbee, a ball and a found some trails to get lost in. They ended their day in Central Park ice-skating on the Wollman Rink.

"Central Park's trails reminded me of being home," said Odell, "but then I would look up and see a giant skyscraper and think 'Oh, right, I'm in New York!'"

After some time in the great outdoors, the Coyote class went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where they explored art from cultures all over the world, including an Egyptian pyramid, Asian parchment and military armor.

"We took the subway on Thursday," said Xan Mihalas. "I had an image of a space-agey sort of thing, but really it was just a train underground with a lot of trash and a lot of people, but it was really cool to experience. It was quite useful in the big city."

The Coyotes enjoyed their time in New York City, but as their trip came to an end there were mixed emotions about leaving. All of them felt eager to get home, but they all appreciated the cultures and vastness of New York. From the appreciation of public transportation and overall ease of walking to everywhere you'd need to go to the cold weather and minimal forests, the class was glad to come home to Brevard, where they each have "their own homes and yards."

When the Coyote class returned to school from their urban adventure, they created a presentation which they shared with each class at Mountain Sun Community School. They enjoyed sharing their experiences and all the new information they had about different cultures, a big city and navigating an urban adventure, which is different and very similar to navigating backcountry adventures. The Coyote class will continue to pull from its experiences in New York as they proceed to study the human trend of urbanization and what it takes to support a city of 8 million people.

(Mountain Sun Community School is an independent, nonprofit school serving preschool through middle school and utilizes Montessori and other methods to provide a unique, inspired education for each child. Mountain Sun Community School is currently enrolling students for the 2018-19 Academic Year. Mountain Sun is a United Way partner agency. For more information, visit or call (828) 885-2555.)

Courtesy Photo

The Coyotes in front of the Statue of Liberty.


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