Field Trips are an adventure all their own. Teachers plan the day with activities and often as an extension from a particular unit in the curriculum. For sake of being specific, my co-teacher and I planned to go to Dujiyangyan Irrigation system to reinforce some concepts in the Science Unit. My co-teacher taught Science to our classes and the TSW (The Student Will) for that Unit was: The Student Will know the basics of earth science such as including beginning meteorology, oceanography, and the structure of the earth’s surface. Although we were both required to make at least one Field Trip Request per semester, I made sure to match her choice with the same place. This place seemed both fun and educational.
Field Trip Request approved! Dujiyangyan Irrigation System was about a 40-minute drive northeast of Chengdu, where I taught in China. It was also such a nice time to make this trip because the dominant seasons in Chengdu are either Winter or Summer. It is blazing, humid and hot or freezing, dark, and cold. Fall and Spring make a quick one-to-two-week appearance as a friendly warning for the impending doom of the upcoming season. Luckily, we ‘hit jackpot’ before the inevitable cold and grey Winter. Yay for Fall!
Many of my field trip experiences include a bit of stress and being pressed for time. Upon reflection and comparison, this one was by far the best. It could have been that it required more leisure than usual field trips and less time spent on a required activity. Or maybe because the town itself had a very laidback and welcoming vibe to it. The town or small city of Dujiyangyan isn’t known for anything other than the irrigation system. If the irrigation system was not there, it may just simply be like any ‘tumble weed town’ in Texas that has one major street with a few required local businesses. Dujiyangyan had a population of 374,816 in comparison to the Chengdu population of 16.33 million. This field trip was going to be a literal ‘walk in the park’.
The bus arrived around 9 am. We had about a 20-minute walk to reach the Irrigation Systems, but instead strolled for about 25-30. There were street vendors selling red lanterns and spicy noodles. Then we also stumbled upon a miniature turtle aquarium. These 2-3 huge turtles made our students squeal with excitement! Next, we decided to stop for snack and delayed our 20-minute walk into an hour. Fortunately, we had some budget-friendly entertainment (aka: free) in front of us. A man with a paint brush about 3 feet in length was writing in ‘hanzi’ on the street. ‘Hanzi’ is the Mandarin name for Chinese characters. Those who do not speak Mandarin (myself included) could mostly likely assume these looked like a bunch of symbols. They are also an additional form of communication that is separate from writing in Mandarin letters (pinyin). I have tried to memorize a few, but find myself confused more often than not. Just to give you an idea of how complex this language is: there are symbols for each letter of the alphabet in Mandarin and a symbol for every verb and adjective. Although the Chinese and Egyptian cultures are completely different from one another, in my opinion these Chinese symbols seemed to have a similar thread to Egyptian hieroglyphics: each symbol stood for a meaning and/or purpose.
In addition, I once learned in Mandarin class that the past or future tense of the Mandarin language is not spoken. They only speak in terms of the ‘present’. For instance, they will not say ‘danced’ or ‘will dance’. However, if the past or future context of a situation needs to be conveyed, an individual must raise the volume and intonation of their voice. Upon trying Mandarin for two weeks, I also learned because of the fluctuation in volume and voice intonation, it’s a tonal language. Not ‘tonal’ as the dialect of a Wisconsin-native, but those letters have multiple sounds and the tone of your voice implies a different tense or meaning of the verb. Fortunately, I have memory of about 8 Mandarin words. However, I chose graduate school over learning a second language. Much respect to anyone who is bilingual though.
Once we finished snack, we took some class pictures in front of this beautiful bridge. We proceeded to walk through it and enjoy the river views on both sides. I think the splashing water was more appealing to our students, but personally I thought the detail of the paintings were pretty impressive. The designs were based on the town’s history with very intricate designs and bold colors.
We walked past fountains shaped as dragon heads with water cascading from the mouth. There were flowers and shrubbery gardens the entire walk. The walking trail was either a pale, grey brick or painted with red and gold. The entire walk leading up to the Irrigation itself was a fun experience on its own.
Once we stopped to view the Irrigation, it basically resembled a very calm, blue lake. There were extended areas to explore of the Irrigation System, but these were blocked off for safety reasons. My co-teacher talked about Irrigation Systems for a small chunk of time and answered a few questions. Although they appeared interested in the Irrigation System, it was evident lunch time was more important. Thankfully, there were some picnic tables near the Irrigation System and we were able to continue to enjoy our view while we ate lunch.
Field Trips are an adventure all their own.
It may be more exciting to any readers if I had any additional, thrilling moments to share. But this field trip was an easy and calm one. Later on we did find a park to play on. Perhaps this memory could be the highlight:
There was a bridge at the park that appeared very loosely assembled and so raggedy that it looked similar to bridges someone would see in an Indiana Jones movie. There was about a 5-inch distance from the bridge to the ground instead of raging waters or a canyon thousands of feet below. There were three students who stood on the bridge for the entire duration of park playground. Might I mention that these particular students were of strong-will and playful personalities. I will label them as students A, B, and C. Despite Students A, B, and C simply being mischievous, I felt pity for any new, curious soul who dared to cross the bridge. Almost immediately whoever attempted to cross the bridge would struggle to stand or step as students A, B, and C would shake and rattle the bridge without remorse. It was like the Three Billy Goats Gruff came to ‘torture their captures’ in broad daylight. This happened twice until both me and my co-teacher decided any student who crossed the bridge should cross in peace. I will mention that NONE of the students were hurt. Although it seemed like typical ‘play’ for most students this age, we didn’t want any accidents.
Around 1 pm, it was evident our 6-year-olds were feeling restless. We gathered our jackets and headed back to the bus. We took the same route as before and enjoyed all the same sights once again. The only time we stopped was to admire the sea turtles again.
Needless to say, many of our students slept on the way back to school. I was looking forward to one as well, but would enjoy one after the school day. I am not completely sure how much of the previously studied science curriculum and field trip experience reinforced the science unit objectives. But what I do remember is that it was a positive day for everyone. They drew wonderful pictures from their day at Dujiyangyan Irrigation and engaged in discussion about their favorite parts of the day as well. I have only cheerful memories of this day and am so glad this Field Trip Request became an adventurous quest.
Field trips may seem to be out of reach due to a variety of reasons. In recent years, many school districts have not been able to afford transportation to field trip sites.
A well written note will not only reassure family members, but it will also reduce the number of questions that a teacher will get from family members.
Organizing a field trip may not be an easy process, but doing it is fun. Other than the obvious benefits, it builds trust between teachers, administrators and parents.