Exposure to cultural and historical experiences can give meaning to learning. In addition, it gives students an opportunity to acquire knowledge, clarify thinking, and synthesize information outside of the classroom. Often, students from disadvantaged backgrounds or with less involved parents have fewer opportunities to have these experiences. This is why my wife is a strong proponent of field trips.
Field trips can give these experiences to children whose parents can not, will not, or choose not to do so. This exposure allows these children to think, process, and develop in ways similar to their high achieving peers. They can give real life experiences or make real abstract concepts like democracy and history come to life. Field trips can open minds simply by exposing children to new ideas.
As a reader of this blog, you probably think that the district does not allow them. Surprise! You are wrong. The district is actually just as gung-ho about them as my wife. For all the reasons I listed, the district mandates 4 field trips in my wife’s grade. So what could be wrong with this picture?
Two words: Golden Corral
In a district that micromanages the minutes of my wife’s day, the first field trip that her students went on was to Golden Corral. For those of you unfamiliar, here is the website. GOLDEN CORRAL.
Now you might be thinking, surely they went to Golden Corral after going to the zoo, perhaps after the theater, or a trip to the statehouse. Nope. That was the entire trip, to GOLDEN CORRAL.
Why? Well, in studying nutrition in science class, 2 of the teachers on my wife’s team decided that the children needed exposure to nutrition in real life, one being the team leader. They thought this lesson would best be taught via a trip to Golden Corral. The kids could choose a healthy meal, identify the food groups (think food pyramid or whatever shape it is now), and learn manners. By going to Golden Corral, a buffet style restaurant with food of questionable nutritional value, the kids could learn about nutrition and manners. Yeah, my wife was less than pleased.
Yet, the field trip was approved? Did it need to be approved? My wife doesn’t have time to read from a book in her classroom, but Golden Corral is fine? Really?
When the big day finally came, off the students and my wife went. She forked over her 7 dollars for her meal; she really didn’t want to pay, but when she asked if she could bring her lunch, the other teachers said they would pay if money was a problem. She wanted to say, “It isn’t the money, it is the principle.”
Once there, the other teacher let their students pick what they wanted and go back for dessert. I’m not sure that manners were a consideration. In contrast, my wife’s students were forced to pick a nutritious plate on a single trip, with no return for a second plate. She also discussed what was on their plate and she pointed out several facts that seemed lost on them. For example, yes, fried chicken is meat, but it is not a healthy choice. It also has carbohydrates and has been fried (not healthy). Yes, strawberries are on the cake, but that does not make it a fruit. So much for constructing a healthy plate.
In the reflection time with her team after the field trip, my wife pointed out that several of her kids had trouble assembling a nutritious meal. This sentiment was met with confusion and a quick defense of the trip as necessary. “Kids need field trips to be exposed to new thing,” said one teacher. Agreed, but is Golden Corral what they need to be exposed to?
Both teachers who planned it regarded it a success. Maybe it was. I mean they did have more than enough volunteers to go as chaperones; that is not always the case when they go to the state capitol.