Communication » PUSD Spotlight - Fairlands Elementary 5th Grade Teachers Bring the Mountains to Their Students

PUSD Spotlight - Fairlands Elementary 5th Grade Teachers Bring the Mountains to Their Students


Fairlands Elementary brought the mountains to their fifth grade students through a week-long Virtual Camp (V-Camp) experience. 5th grade teachers Jenny Eisenbies, Lizette Gianfortonue aka “Lizard”, Kelly Lack aka “Rain”, Taylor Newman aka “Blossom, and Abbey Raymond aka “Sky” along with Science Specialist Stacey Holder and PE Specialist Bryan Campiotti planned and led camp experiences for our V-Campers through daily, live camp meetings, science lessons,  and have selected nature-inspired activities. This team of educators created hands-on science experiments, songs, and STEAM activities to explore matter cycles, life webs, and how energy flows. 120 Fairlands 5th graders joined "Adventure Groups" each day to bond, grow, and learn together throughout the week.

A traditional rite of passage for 5th grade is an Outdoor Education program where students camp and are immersed in several days of science-based education. 

“We wanted to ensure that our students did not miss out on the opportunity they have been waiting for since Kindergarten,” said Mrs. Newman or “Blossom”, her V-Camp name. “As a team, we knew that we wanted to create a virtual Outdoor Ed experience. If we couldn't bring students to the mountains, we were determined to bring the mountains to them!

The Fairlands 5th grade team, along with Science Specialist Stacey Holder held multiple planning sessions where they brainstormed the approach, experience and a multitude of logistical and technical details in making V-Camp a memorable experience for students. Each teacher was in charge of planning one day of virtual camp where each day had an overarching theme: Monday was Water Cycle day with the focus of matter cycles, Tuesday was Redwoods Day with a focus of energy flows, Wednesday was Ocean Life Day with a focus of life webs, and Thursday was Oak Woodland Day with the emphasis being on matter cycles, life webs, and energy flows to show students how all three themes were connected. 

Teachers created a V-Camp logo and made camp t-shirts. Through 5th grade parent donations, fund 120 daily science kits, daily art projects, nature snacks for each day, a camp backpack with our logo, a pasta dinner, and a s’mores kit.  The Fairlands team also created a physical "Camp Chronicles" booklet for each student that contained worksheets and activities that they would write in throughout the entirety of virtual camp; this booklet also included all of the lyrics for V-Camp chants and songs.

The Fairlands team’s V-Camp experience began at the crack of dawn with “Rain’s Sunshine Yoga Club” with Mrs. Lack and into the night through special evening “Family-Fun” activities via Zoom. Evening activities included a Sing-Along Campfire on Monday night, Astrology "Star Talk" on Tuesday night, a costume dance party ("Shindizzle") on Wednesday night, and learning how to cook their family a pasta dinner for their families, instructed by Head Chef, Fairlands Principal Heidi Deeringhoff. Through these morning and evening activities, the Fairlands team was able to expand on the traditional outdoor education experience to include the entire family. 



“This week has been truly memorable for both staff and students,” expressed Mrs. Newman. “The atmosphere and learning experience we were able to create this week is more than any of us could have imagined, and reaffirms why we do what we do each and every day!” 

V-Camp Sample Lessons & Student Work

On Ocean Life Day, Mrs. Newman walked students through a lesson on identifying seashells using a dichotomous key. Students were provided with a bag of seashells and in their camp chronicles had a seashell dichotomous key. They were given a seashell presentation and I modeled how to use the key to determine what type of animal the seashell came from! Students then had to sketch their seashells and label with the identified animal.

On Water Cycle day, Mrs. Lack created a water cycle in a Ziploc bag using a water bottle, ziploc bag, and blue dye! They then made observations and shared out their water cycle bag at the end of the day via a Flipgrid! Asynchronous work combined digital resources such as videos, interactive games and websites, along with written work in their Camp Chronicles. Some activities included making an infographic or commercial on water cycles and renewable resources, designing a digital kelp forest, learning about jellyfish to create jellyfish inspired art, and labeling and a forest food web. 

It was such a joy to listen to students discuss their observations on their seashells and make predictions on what animal lives inside using the knowledge they were gaining,” said Mrs. Newman. “It was apparent in every lesson that students were not doing the work because they had to, but because they were intrigued and wanted to learn; something extremely rewarding for us to see as their teachers.”

Links to other V-Camp student work & activities:


Gratitude: Camp Reflections

  • More End of Camp Reflections (Flipgrid)
  • From a Fairlands Elementary parent: "I have no words to describe how I feel right now. We are so overwhelmed by what you wonderful teachers have done with V-Camp. It's made me personally so emotional. This is the spirit of our school community. Much respect and love to our Fairlands teachers." 
  • From a Fairlands Elementary student, " I really don't want camp to end! Thank you for the awesome experience and for being awesome teachers to us! I will never forget this moment!."