Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall Field Trips

Field Trips are a highlight of the school year for many students and teachers.  The chance to get out and explore an art or science museum or nearby conservation land or businesses can bring a level of Fun & Excitement, Curiosity & Creativity, and Spirit of Adventure unavailable in the "boring" building we are confined to day after day.  What puzzles me is why field trips are so often packed into the end of the year.  There are two kinds of field trips--those that are educational and those that are more celebratory and community-building--and both would seem to work better at the beginning of the year rather than at the end.

At the end of the year, I have seen those excursions slide into disciplinary carrots or sticks used to coax or prod students to behave.  They become part of a prize/penalty system used to reward students who have done well or, withheld, to punish students who have not met expectations.  I have also seen them used to check off school days after teachers have reached the end of the text book or the end of their rope!  That precious time spent out of the classroom can be put to better use.  This is accomplished,in part, simply by shifting the timing.

At the beginning of the school year, the field days, picnics, and trips to amusement parks could be used to create a sense of Belonging.  They are opportunities for students to get to know one another and their teachers free from the stress of having to perform academically.  We can discover trust and respect that will serve us for the rest of the year.  Jaunts of the more educational variety, to farms, orchards, museums, and local historical sites become food for thought for the entire year.  "Do you remember when we were in the museum and saw..."  "Here is an apple I saved from our trip to the orchard last month, let's..."  "Open your books to page 72, we are going to read about the battle that took place during the Civil War at the site we visited in October."  While the weather is still cooperating, why not plan a trip in October that you can use inside until June?

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