Field trips are part of the whole school experience. You get excited to pack up that bag lunch, maybe not bring your backpack to school (too cool for that!), and be the kid that brings the huge bag of goldfish or Sour Patch Kids to share with the entire bus.
I personally believe that field trips are necessary. From an educator’s point of view, it’s an opportunity to build relationships with our students. It’s a chance for us to see them in a different environment, possibly with different groups of students we’re not used to seeing them with, and to get to explore with them.
From a student’s point of view, it’s a chance to be with a social group outside of the walls of school. It’s breaking routine and trying something new. It’s a chance to apply some of the material they’ve been learning throughout the year to new experiences and new situations.
We can talk about virtual reality, Google Earth, Skype in the Classroom and other technological tools to help break down the four walls of our classroom all we want. But (especially in middle school) tangible experiences that students can personally relate to are the crème de la crème.
Recently, we were able to take our seventh graders to the Heifer Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts, run and sponsored by Heifer International. “Heifer International’s mission is to work with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth.” So they believe in teaching sustainable development to poorer areas of the world so that they may be able to build stronger, more prosperous communities and able to create a stable lifestyle.
The results of this field trip with our students was wonderful. Honestly, none of us educators had been to the farm to have an understanding of the layout of the farm, so we were unsure of what to expect. What we did know is that students were going to visit the Global Village at the farm. This village had houses that represented some of the areas Heifer works with around the world, such as China, Guatemala, Peru, Poland and Kenya. Also, part of the program was that students were to COOK THEIR MEAL! Wahoo new experiences!
Although students weren’t HUGE into the meals (bland, smaller portions, etc), they said this would be an experience they’ll remember. They learned how other cultures lived, lifestyles in different regions of the world, and lessons from the food itself. Yes, it was bland, but what does that say about what is available to them? Yes, the portions were smaller, but how does this connect to poverty and hunger around the world? What does this say about us as Americans and our portions?
Yes, the bugs were awful. Yes, the food may not have been that filling. Yes, it was a hot day. But the experiences that the students were able to have were priceless. Not many of our students can say they’ve milked a goat! So check that off the bucket list!
What sort of field trips do your students participate in? What is your dream field trip/experience?