Field trips bring education to life. They provide students with a real-world connection and interaction that brings history, art, science and numerous other subjects out of the textbook and in front of students. When a student can see something rather than just read a textbook, they are much more likely to understand it and remember it. For instance, if I was to tell you a T-Rex has big teeth, would you fully understand and be able to put that into perspective? How about if I take you to the Museum of Natural History and you see a T-Rex's teeth with your own eyes? You will surely be able to comprehend and put into perspective just how big those teeth are then. To me, field trips and any sort-of student travel are so important because they really burn lasting memories into the minds of children.
Still, field trips are very expensive and no easy task to put together. From transportation costs to admission fees, there is a lot to consider. Even to get a school bus to go ten miles can average between $200-$300. Some families simply can't afford to help pay for this cost, especially when they have more than one child involved. Teachers know how valuable field trips and travel are though, so we fund raise, we seek grants, we ask for help from various companies, we do what we can, even reaching into our own pockets, to help offset costs and make field trips possible. Putting together a successful field trip is a team effort and everyone has to do their part.
Through my work as the 2012 Washington D.C. Teacher of the Year, I've had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with a number of teachers from around the nation and it really opened my eyes to the challenges they are facing as well, but I was also able to learn new things that I could not find in a textbook. This experience really opened my desire to continue my travels and bring my fascinating experiences back to my classroom.
I feel all teachers need to engage in travel. They need to expose themselves and their students to new places and cultures so they can really learn because, like in my experience, not everything can be taught in a textbook. Visiting other states and countries to learn about our differences and similarities creates a new chapter in the book of life. Unfortunately though, we often earn just enough to sustain our daily lives.
To make travel interactive, every unit we do in my classroom has a travel experience tied-in to boost my students' knowledge of whatever the subject is. It's so important for students to actually see the subjects they study first-hand and to have those hands-on "aha" experiences. For example, we had been studying the history of early America from the colonies to the civil war and in this unit, we, of course, read about President Lincoln and his contributions to history. To make the lesson more hands-on, I arranged a class trip to Ford's Theater where students had the opportunity to see the theater booth where Lincoln was shot, view actual documents and photographs and even tour the house where he died. The students were actually excited and totally engaged.
A classroom experience can only scratch the surface... field trips dig deep, and as educators, we don't earn salaries that allow us to venture out and travel as much as we need. That is why I am working with Hilton HHonors on their Teacher Treks Travel Grant Competition, which gives teachers the chance to see the world and bring their experiences back to the classroom. I hope teachers take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to bring the education from travel back to their kids.