When I was in Hampton Elementary School back in Detroit, one of the things I remember with most joy and happiness is the field trips we went on. For example, there was the December 12, 1973 trip to the planetarium I took as a second grader. I remember being fascinated by how dark they made the room. I remember them showing us the Big and Little Dippers, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, and other such things. I remember how bright the “stars” were in contrast to the darkness of the observatory. I thought, “Gee, man, this is groovy.”
Then nearly three years later, I recall my fourth grade class’s trip to Greenfield Village which occurred on a cloudy, foggy Wednesday, May 26, 1976 to be exact. It seemed to be fitting that we go there, since it was just weeks before the Bicentennial. I saw the room Henry Ford lived in, among other things, just exactly seen on the TV commercial. I remember walking down the streets, the old school bank, the ice cream shop as it was back in the day, etc. I saw a piece of American history. I wish I had an instant camera there to take pictures. (Sidebar: Too bad they don’t make those anymore.)
These were true learning experiences for me. They are the experiences who made me who I am, and at least had a minor role in being a student of culture, a student of history. And that is what any good field trip program should have as a goal. A child should be required to experience some of everything–much like a good parent forces his or her child to eat some of everything given to him on his plate.
As an educator, I would like to cite five examples of places kids should be strongly encouraged to go on a field trip to. Field trips, in fact, that should be part of every curriculum. Mind you, these are just ideas. They should be taken to a symphony concert, an art museum, a college campus, a radio and TV studio, and a newspaper.
First, I think every child should be offered a chance to check out a classical music concert by a local symphony orchestra. Today my district sponsored a field trip to the Kalamazoo Symphony Youth Concert. I am sure the kids, most of whom only know as music that of rap, hip hop, Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers–broadened their view of music as a result of today’s concert.
Maestro Barry Ross, the conductor, taught a seminar on the different periods of symphony music. I learned something today–I discovered that there have been four such periods: Baroque, classical, romantic and modern. The modern era is marked by more percussion instruments and rhythms.
The thing that surprised me the most, was that this young lady–a middle schooler from one of the suburban districts–composed a concerto of her own. It was beautiful, to say the least. It told me something: There are people in every age group with open minds, who find value in every style of music, a key sign of intellectual growth, in my opinion.
Secondly, offer a child the chance to go to a museum. Indeed, an art museum will help the child appreciate diverse forms of art, as well as the uniqueness of other cultures. For example, take them during the time of an African or Hispanic exhibit. Show them beauty as defined by other cultures. The earlier you do this, the more likely that your youngster is to develop a more multicultural perspective, and be less intolerant of those who do not wish to completely assimilate into the dominant culture.
I didn’t get a chance to go to the Detroit Institute of Arts–one of the best–until I went there with my wife back in May, one day before Mother’s Day. Needless to say, my eyes came open. There were different forms of African art, every one depicting a given aspect of African history.
Third, give your child at a young age the opportunity to visit a college campus. It is never too early to get your kidlets a chance to explore the idea of a postsecondary education. As you are taking them on a tour of the campuses, let them know some of the high-paying careers that require a college education–teaching, lawyering, medicine, nursing, and others. This way, you are grabbing them while they are still very young and impressionable. In order to hope to go to college, they must stay in school.
Thus you are providing an experience for them that will make them less likely to drop out of school when the going gets rough. You are giving them a boost-up long before they may need one.
You, as the principal of a school might ask, “At what level should I start encouraging my teachers to do this?” As early as possible, I would suggest. Even second-or-third graders might extract something from such an experience. The idea is that you are planting a seed. You are planting something into their memory to encourage them when the work gets too hard later in school and they feel like quitting.
Also, why not arrange a trip to a radio or TV station? There could be a few future Paul Harveys or Rush Limbaughs on your audience. For them, take them to a TV station, let them see all behind the scenes. Let them see the sound equipment, the camera equipment, the inside of an announcer’s booth, etc. I went on one such trip to a Francophone radio station in Canada. I remember this guy telling me that he knew who all the booth announcers at my favourite Canadian station, CKLW TV, Channel 9 were–by name. The guy seemed impressed at my ability to mimic Marty Adler, the late Conrad Patrick, Stan Raymond,and Irv Morrison.
Besides that, what also impressed me a lot was the amount of sound equipment. I had always been fascinated by mikes, sound equipment, and TV cameras. I am until this day. I never learned what all those buttons until this year, when my pastor took me under his wing and showed me how to operate a sound board. Like I said in a previous paper, there is so much to learn. It seems daunting when you first begin.
Or maybe it’s time for a trip to a newspaper factory, where the daily paper is made. Indeed, I have seen classes from a number of schools, including the downtown Kalamazoo Advantage Academy (now defunct), go through the various floors of the newspapers, including the packaging area, where I once worked. The idea was to give kids an idea of how the papers were packaged–to track their odyssey from the printing presses to the packaging machines to the skids, and then out the door.
Don’t only have them on the packaging floor–take them upstairs to meet some of the writers. For who knows, maybe you have a student good at writing amongst the members of your class. Writing, if you are really good at it, is an excellent way to make money–especially if you move up through the ranks to become a managing editor.
Thus the reason for taking schoolchildren on field trips should be threefold: First, to supplement the educational experience in the classroom in a fun way; and second, to get kids thinking in terms of a good, high paying career. Not just a job. That is why field trips are an important part of the classroom experience. Another thing they do is to provide memories of fun that will last a lifetime.