A FIELD TRIP WORTH TAKING
My husband and I are both involved in public education. At one time, we both worked as teachers; now, I remain a classroom teacher, but my husband has moved on to serve as a director of technology/technology integrator. However, we are both very passionate about education and how it impacts children, especially our own. As educators, we both see the value of field trips, as long as they tie in to the curriculum being taught to students and contribute to the learning of students. So, when our 4th grader brought home a permission slip to attend a baseball game during the educational day, we both questioned the educational value of the trip. No reasonable explanation could be given, and no curricular connection could be made. WAIT….the connection was this: it was EDUCATION DAY at the ballpark. In our minds, that was not suitable justification, so we took matters into our own hands.
From the time that our 9-year-old had been 4, her passion centered around pandas. My husband and I discussed what we could do rather than send her to the ballgame. It was decided that my husband would use a personal day to journey to D.C. with our daughter so she could meet Bao Bao, the baby panda residing inside the National Zoo walls. It was the best decision we could have made.
Before leaving for the trip, my husband created an assignment for our daughter. He told her to select 3 to 4 animal for her focus. She would take her ipad mini on the trip in order to collect as many photos and videos as she could. Upon returning home, she would create an ibook and an imovie featuring her trip and the many photos and videos she captured. Not only did she meet Bao Bao, but she was in for a special treat: six lion cubs were also living at the zoo.
When I finally caught up with her that night at swim practice, she was so excited to share her day with me. She gushed over the baby panda and all the other animals she encountered. Additionally, it just so happened that a panda trainer was on site providing interviews at certain times for anyone interested. My daughter interviewed the trainer and learned a great deal about working with pandas. Her intervie is documented on her ipad mini. Although she’s only a 4th grader, she now knows what courses are required for becoming a panda trainer/caregiver. She would have to study biology and offer at least a year of free internship services. She was also told that working with exotic animals would offer a better chance of obtaining a job working with pandas, a job that does not require relocation to China.
So, our child could have attended a baseball game with her classmates. Some classmates chose not to go on the fieldtrip. They remained behind and spent the day in scattered classrooms throughout the school. If you talk to any of the students in her grade level—either those who attended the game or those who stayed behind– and ask what was learned, I doubt their answers would match those of our daughter. Not only did she create a photo album and an imovie, but she is also planning to enter several of her panda photos into the technology digital photo show hosted by her school district each year.
Field trips can be a great asset to the educational process if they contribute to a student’s learning. However, fun field trips, in our opinion, should be reserved for summer time. My husband is a baseball aficionado, so we travel to many ballparks over our summer vacation. The zoo trip was a phenomenal experience for our child. Bao Bao will only be a baby for so long, and after a certain amount of time, baby pandas must be returned to China.
We made a personal choice for our child, and we could not be happier. Reminds me of one of my favorite Robert Frost poems, “The Road Not Taken.” The two roads diverged in the yellow wood, and the speaker chose the one less traveled by. According to the speaker, that choice made all the difference in his life. The less popular choice certainly paid off for our family as well.