For three days, school moves to the mountains

Feb 4, 2019

Sippican School’s Mountain Classroom field trip is in the mountains, but also makes students feel like they can move mountains. 

Fundraising is currently underway for the annual field trip, which is held a few weeks before the end of school, takes between 60 and 70 sixth grade students to the Joe Dodge Lodge in Gorham New Hampshire.

Sixth grade teacher Bill Roseman, who organizes the trip every year, described the accommodations.

“It’s very similar to a college dorm. Rooms with single beds, shared bathrooms,” Roseman said.

The same teachers and 12 to 14 parents travel with the students every year as chaperones. But once students arrive, the Appalachian Mountain Club takes over their education for the three days and two nights they are there. 

The Mountain Club splits students up into groups of nine, and those groups spend most of their time on hikes.

“There’s some classroom time in shared spaces, but most of the time is outside,” Roseman said, adding that the Mountain Club, teaches students “about things like water ecology, climate change, all sorts of different environmental issues.”

More practical wilderness skills also make the curriculum.

“They do things like compass skills, reading a map. Every year they do certain things, and then there are other things that are different. They sometimes examine animal skulls and skins. But it really depends who is up there and what the individual guides are interested in,” Roseman said.

To send 72 students on the excursion this year will cost more than $20,000. Though Roseman organizes, he explains that, “I stay out of the fundraising,” leaving that to parent volunteers.

The volunteers raise money through grants and a variety of fundraisers throughout the year. Last week they held a paint nite at the Brew Fish in Marion. In the near future the group will host a childcare fundraiser on two of the school’s early dismissal days, Feb. and March 6, and a parents vs. students basketball game on March 21. 

Despite the high costs, parents usually fundraise enough to keep the family contribution low.

“There’s always some out of pocket costs, but it’s usually under $100 and then the rest of it comes from fundraising,” Roseman explained. “This year the parent group was telling me that they’ve got it right around $100.”

Sippican School recognizes the educational value of the trip, and commits to paying for students whose families might not be able to otherwise afford the trip.

“If there’s any sort of financial hardship the school pays for the trip. We have a certain amount of money that is up to the principal’s discretion to spend for the students,” Roseman explained.

Still, Christina Bonney, a sixth grade parents who has helped to organize the fundraising, emphasized the importance of contributing to keep costs as low as possible. 

“I don't think the community at large is aware of how much the demographics of the town have changed in recent years. We have a lot of students for whom the cost of the trip, even after all of this fundraising, will be a hardship, so every dollar helps,” Bonney explained. 

Roseman explains that the trip can be a milestone for young students.

“They love the experience, because for many of them it’s the first time sleeping away from home. So they have this great sense of independence for three days,” he said.

The students learn with the mountains as their classroom, and also build endurance from the hikes.

“The Mountain Club does a good job of estimating their fitness level and then pushing maybe a little bit beyond it. So they come back with a great sense of accomplishment,” Roseman said. 

To donate to the Mountain Club fundraising efforts, contact Bonney and other organizers at