The Educational Value of Field Trips

With budget cuts, field trips and electives are often the first things to go in schools.  However, experiential learning, the arts, and physical education are great ways to not only incorporate academics in a hands-on way, but teach life skills and encourage positive character development.

This past week was a very busy, fun-filled week with many field trips and specials for the higher education class.

This week was a very adventurous and enjoyable week, but most importantly, I was able to get to know my students at a deeper level and see some previously reserved students flourish outside of the classroom.

 Monday: Dickinson Farm and Biodiesel Facility at Dickinson College

We got a tour of the farm where we learned about organic farming and their use of crop and animal Erin bikerotation.  Students got to see sheep, taste strawberries, and watch worms in their compost process.  We ate lunch at the dining hall at Dickinson College, giving a taste of college to the students.  After lunch, we briefly stopped at the bike shop and learned how to change a flat tire, an important life skill to know.  Finally, we visited the biodiesel facility where we learned about how they turn used cooking oil from the dining hall and into biodiesel fuel for the tractors on the farm.  The byproduct of this process is also used to make soap.

In one day, environmental science and chemistry were taught, in addition to exposing students to college life and teaching them practical skills, all in a way that will stay with the kids much longer than any worksheet or reading from a textbook.

Tuesday: Gettysburg College Ropes Course

In the morning, we played short games, such as a rock, paper, scissors tournament and a dodge ball game where students were in pairs and one partner was blindfolded.  Many of the games required strategy, Erin group buildingteamwork, and most importantly communication.  With twenty teenagers all voicing different ideas and strategies for the task at hand, communication was crucial and trial and error was practiced in a safe environment.  In the afternoon, each student had the opportunity of being attached to a cable that was pulled up by their classmates to the height of their choice and then released in a large pendulum motion.  The students were so adventurous and spent the entire day working together and encouraging each other, bringing the class closer as a group.

Wednesday: Keystone Technical Institute in Harrisburg, PA

We had a tour of KTI where we learned about the different programs offered.  We then had a presentation about the importance of choosing a career that is enjoyable, secure, and pays enough to sustain your lifestyle.  The students were able to see a different type of higher education that was more career-focused with very hands-on programs.

Thursday: Art & Soccer

In the morning we had both art and soccer for our specials.  In art we split up into different groups to tackle several projects needed to be done for next week’s Parent Night.  Some students were constructing things, some were weaving tapestries, and others were decorating a display case.  Students were allowed to choose which activity they would work on and it was incredible to see the different strengths of the students.  After art, we went outside for soccer and as always, the students had a great time.  I am always impressed by their sportsmanship, encouraging each other, and truly playing as a team.  Previously in the program, we had the students write about a place where they are most content and many wrote about the soccer field; it is very evident that the soccer field is a place where they can truly be themselves.

Friday: Hike at Pole Steeple and Swimming at Caledonia

We concluded the week with a trip with all the older kids (grades 6 and up) to Pole Steeple where we Erin hikehiked to the top of the mountain to see a beautiful view.  We then went to Caledonia where the rest of the school was and we had lunch together before heading to the pool to swim.  My higher ed kids were so great interacting with the younger kids, helping pass out lunches, playing in the pool with little ones, and encouraging each other on the long, steep hike up the mountain.

This past week was one that I and probably most students will not forget.  The sense of community and friendship that emerged from this week was incredible and has helped the students feel more comfortable together, helping to create an environment more conducive to learning for all.

Erin O’Connor ’15
Gettysburg

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