By Patty Schaller
At St. Paul’s First Lutheran School in North Hollywood, students are provided not only with an excellent classroom experience, but also a “hands-on” outdoor classroom where they can get “up close and personal” with nature.
From Oct. 24—26th, a hardy band of 20 fifth and sixth graders camped on Catalina Island, led by teachers Kristen and Al Mindock. They went out city kids, many of whom had never ventured far from home, and returned smarter, stronger, and ready for their next challenge.
“Our school mission statement strives to help children grow in all aspects of their lives,” explained Principal Rendy Koeppel. “St. Paul’s First Lutheran School exists to assist parents in providing children with a Christ-centered education promoting spiritual, emotional, social, physical, and academic growth, equipping them for life and eternity as redeemed children of God. To support the mission statement, St. Paul’s includes many activities outside the classroom including featured activities like the Catalina Island Trip.”
Examples of the out-of-the-classroom activities include a Junior High trip to Washington D.C. for a week, where they explored government centers, museums, and monuments. Closer to home trips have been to the California Science Center, the Devil’s Punchbowl, and Mt. Baldy.
Teachers Kristen Mindock, who has taught fourth grade for seventeen years, and Al Mindock, who has taught middle school for twenty-four years, accompanied the kids to Emerald Bay, which is on the opposite end of the island from Avalon. Mountain and Sea Adventures uses a Boy Scout Camp facility for the two-night, three-day event.
According to Kristen Mindock, the MSA staff “did everything” as the kids learned about an outdoor education that included marine biology, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, and swimming. Classes taught about fish were followed by snorkeling to get a good look. Classes on the island’s birds were followed by kayaking to see where they live.
“The theme was ‘breaking your fears,’” Al Mindock said. “Kids from the San Fernando Valley tried new things for the first time. Everyone participates. You can’t say ‘No.’ And they come out on the other side. It’s fun watching them initially be afraid then get through it smiling — watching them grow. It’s an opportunity for leadership within their peer group that they carry with them back to St. Paul’s.”
It was an experience the students won’t soon forget. London Beck, 11, said she enjoyed snorkeling best. “You get to see all the stuff God created and more. I saw the Garibaldi fish that represents California. We learned about pollution: how if you pollute the sea you pollute the air. The sea plankton gives off oxygen, and that’s where we get one-third of our oxygen.”
Julia Flores, 11, also enjoyed snorkeling best. “The water was really clear and I was excited to see the fish – how free they were.”
For Vincent Bayardo, 10, the trip opened up a whole new world. “I had never been on an island or 30 feet away from land. I always sleep with my parents in the next room. After awhile I knew I could trust everyone. On our way back from Catalina I saw two different kinds of dolphins, and jellyfish with all the colors — so beautiful. God does a good job creating the animals.”
St. Paul’s First Lutheran School is located at 11330 McCormick St. in North Hollywood. For more information, call (818) 763-2892.