When I was a kid in school there was one thing I always looked forward to: field trips. Whether it was going to the local railroad museum or the skating rink, I couldn’t wait to get out of the school and see something different for a day. I liked that the trip broke up our normal schedule, and most of the time our class stopped at a park on the way back to the school. The interesting thing is most of my memories of these trips only include the fun parts after. This may not come as a surprise, kids like to run around parks and play, but it got me thinking about the value of these fun trips for kids.
Now that I’m an educator in charge of these trips, I understand a bit of why these fun trips can be just as important as strictly educational ones. They teach social lessons on interaction with one another in a new setting. They allow for exercise and, as a bonus, the students love it. Finally, they teach decision-making skills, such as what to do with their limited free time at this new place, who to spend their time with while they are there, and what activities to do.
My first field trip as an educator was a local Special Olympics at a bowling alley. We had five students we were taking in addition to the seven plus other schools that were taking part in the competition. Planning and making sure it all went without a hitch hugely important. We used SMS e-signatures for our students and made sure their parents were able to come by and cheer them on. This did wonders for their confidence; they had a blast bowling. To top it all off, they didn’t have to go back to school when they finished their game.
Happy students are a great part of the classroom. They are more responsive to lessons and are better behaved so they don’t lose the chance to go on the trip.
This experience showed me how much students learn in this type of environment. They learn important social skills having to do with competition. I had one student who hardly ever talked when he was in the classroom come alive when he got second place and could not stop talking to the other students in his group about bowling and how he wanted to bowl with them again soon. That type of transformation in confidence and social interaction would never have happened had he stayed in school that day. It goes to show how these trips can be a fantastic tool for students to find out how things can be outside a normal learning environment.
Another trip I took part in supervising was to a skating rink. This trip wasn’t mandatory, it was a reward for those students who had met their reading goals for a nine-week period. This trip turned out to be a great motivator for the students. It made them really work hard to meet their goals, and as an educator that one aspect makes the trip worth it. But the benefits of the skating rink trip went beyond just that.
I noticed that most of the students had to decide how to split their time while they were at the rink. It had an arcade section as well as the main rink area, giving the students plenty of chances to enjoy themselves. I liked watching how they solved the problem of figuring out how long to skate and how long to play air hockey or another game in the arcade. Some stuck with their friend group, others went to the arcade for a breather after skating for a little too long. The freedom they had to decide when to do what taught them lessons without them realizing it. They knew that they would give up skating time if they played the arcade, or that they could be playing their friends in the arcade instead of skating. I liked that they had the freedom to make this choice themselves, teaching them how the real-world works and valuable time management skills.
The skating rink trip served another purpose: it was a reward for hard work in reaching their reading goals. As a newer educator, I quickly realized how valuable a good motivator for students is. One that works for a whole nine-week period is invaluable, most of the motivators I used were only for a single test or an assignment at best. In my experience, having to stay behind while their friends get to leave school and have a day where all they do is skate around and play arcade games is enough for most students to make sure they meet their reading goals for the next nine-weeks. This teaches them a valuable lesson about personal planning and being responsible for their own actions.
If it were up to me, I would have students go on a trip every month so they are given plenty of opportunities to learn these lessons for themselves. I have seen the difference between students who have nothing to look forward to other than regular school days for weeks on end versus a class with a field trip coming up. The effect is even more noticeable when the trip isn’t strictly for educational purposes. Happy students are a great part of the classroom. They are more responsive to lessons and are better behaved so they don’t lose the chance to go on the trip. For planning, parents learn about our trips easily with the Mobile Permissions SMS e-signature system and can ask questions or bring up concerns well before the day of the trip. With parents on board and excited students, field trips seem like a no-brainer. Whether as a reward for work done, or as a part of the Special Olympics, students have plenty to learn. The fun trips expose them to what the real world may bring. Students are given more independence than in a school setting. They can decide how to spend their limited time, how to interact with each other in a new environment, and consequences of bad choices.
In summary, fun field trips are a great tool for an educator to use. They offer many advantages that affect students positively. I have seen students come out of their shell after getting second place in their bowling group and I’ve seen students really study to be able to make their reading goal and go on the skating trip. These can be just as educational as museum trips, but in ways that will prepare the students for the real world.
Permission slips are standard and required for high school field trips in the United States. Yet, what about high schools in other countries? As a teacher who has taught in Europe many years and in China for one year, I went on many field trips outside of the U.S. What do they do different and why?
The educator’s task to arrange a field trip, get all the parent permission slips, then deal with students outside of the classroom and school environment never crossed my mind doing my graduate work.
One thing that is rarely ever covered in new teacher training is how to do what many of us in the profession consider to be “the easy stuff”. Things like how to use the copier, how to set up a classroom, and how to create and send out a movie permission slip.