Thursday, November 18, 2010

Field Trips

When you chaperone as many public school field trips as I have you notice a few things.  There are some children who are genuinely excited to attend the trip.  They may have an interest in the subject, have some prior knowledge of the subject matter or truly wish to learn more.  They are few in number.  Many of the children are happy about having a “day off” from school and a chance to leave the school building.  They may race from exhibit to exhibit, barely taking in the basic information, and at times are an annoyance to those students who are there to learn.  For the most part they are disengaged, but peaceful.  Then there are the few that you need to pair up with a chaperone one on one because they will disrupt the entire trip once the built in structures of the classroom are removed.  This is just one class of 25 students.  Rarely do field trips include just one class of 25.  For cost containment, usually an entire grade level attends.  Multiply that 25 by three at least.  Wonder what your child actually learns at a field trip?  Ask them.  My daughters could usually state about one thing they learned.  But they will tell you they sure had fun!
original dug out canoe

My homeschool friends do not have the perspective on field trips that I do since I am the only one in our group who has had older children attend school.  Today I was simply blown away by our girls scout troop’s field trip.  We attended a local farm for lessons about Native American life in the woodlands of Connecticut.  Our girls numbered around 20.  We ranged in age from the Daisy’s who are five and six, to the Jr. Girl Scouts who are 9 and 10.  Siblings also attended but they were given their own tour separate from the Troop.  Our girls had knowledge of every single topic covered.  How were fish traps used?  My daughter knew.  How do you tan a deer hide?  Our girls knew.   How was maple syrup made?  Our girls knew.  What are the three sisters?  Simple!  When we discussed why the dugout canoe floated, we explained that it is less dense than water.  Our expectations are not dummed down simply because some of the children are young.  
Native American game playing

Information that seemed new to some girls were the uses of pelts from skunk, beaver, bear, deer and rabbit.  We were able to hold and wear these.    I would have liked to have heard the instructor rise to the level of our girl’s knowledge, especially for the older girls.  I would like to extend this with a trip to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, one of the finest museums I have visited.  
stunning in skunk

I tried to explain to my friend how amazed I am at the difference between a homeschool field trip and those I have attended as a teacher and a chaperoning parent.  Perhaps it is that we can tailor our trips to integrate seamlessly into our curriculum.  Or perhaps it is that we can find the perfect place given our child’s unique talents or interests to further their interest or deepen their knowledge.  But the difference is palpable.  I know it is due to the size of the group, being one third the average size.  But it is also a different level of expectations.  We expect our children to learn something, not just to have a day off from lessons.  Our planning is purposeful and deliberate.  Follow up conversations, reading and research often a natural outcome, not assigned homework.       
Unfortunately all my stunning photos have pictures of other Troop members.  I do not have permission to post.  Sorry!

How lucky I am to be part of this group?  Fate clearly guided me a year ago this time when I was first introduced to these amazing children and their equally amazing parents.
How very lucky my girls and I are!


musicalmary said...

It is so funny how much I think we have in common! Today we took a field trip to Zoo Atlanta. Having chaperoned many public school trips (as a teacher and then a parent), I noticed the difference IMMEDIATELY. The questions from the homeschool kids were so insightful, and the manners were impeccable. I came away from today feeling so thankful and proud.

Marcie said...

A couple of weeks ago I went on my first public school field trip. I was shocked to say the least. I went in my neighbors place with her son, as a treat Pea got to join in. We were thrilled until we saw how chaotic it really was. That was my learning moment.

mamak said...

Wow! I never knew the other side! I did however witness a horrific field trip at the maritime aquarium. I was shocked. The teachers were impatient and growly at the kids, and the few who wanted to linger at the exhibit as they had clear interest, we rudely told to move along. One kid had a pretty simple question about a turtle, and get this, a teacher said, "I don't know". Not we'll ask that, or we can google it. And the really sad part was that the kid just nodded. I wanted to hurl. I thought it was just a bad school, did not realize it was the norm.

FairyLover said...

I too have experience field trips with public school kids and homeschoolers. I find them so much more fun with homeschoolers. Most of the time the kids are genuinely interested in the subject.

Kathi Homeschooling In Rhode Island

See Jamie blog said...

Looks like a WONDERFUL field trip!

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