I live in one of the best cities on the planet. The opportunities for learning are so rich that there’s no way I can keep my kiddos in our classroom all of the time. Today, in our seventh week of school, my 7th graders and I went on our first field trip.
I prefer the term fieldwork instead of field trip because I want my students out in the field doing research, exploring, interviewing, learning, and challenging themselves. Today’s journey was more of a field trip/fieldwork hybrid. We traveled from the Bronx to Manhattan’s Times Square to see the film “The Good Lie.” The anchor text for our first unit, “Journeys and Survival,” is Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water which follows Salva, an 11-year old boy from southern Sudan after he is separated from his family because of a civil war. The film follows four Sudanese youth who experience a similar tragedy.
Before the film, my kids were excited for a number of reasons. First, they were going to the movies. Second, they were going to Times Square. Third, they were going to buy overpriced popcorn and soda. (Pricey!) Fourth, they were going to sit with their friends. After the film, they shared how saddened they were by the content, how many of them shed tears multiple times throughout the movie, and how amazed they were by the number of lights and large screens there are in Times Square. (Many of them were also still shocked that they actually had an assignment to do.)
For me, the best part of any fieldwork experience is riding the subway with my students. In part because New York City’s subways are filled with such diversity that you can’t help but learn about the world but also because it gives me that downtime with kids that is so rare in the classroom. Today I learned that burger is a negative term used to describe someone these days. (One student said it’s like using the word trash.) I also learned that my kids are afraid they’ll contract Ebola since it’s now come to New York City. I learned that our advisory has ethnic roots in Mexico, Nigeria, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Italy, Ireland, and West Africa. (So incredible!) And that one of my student’s mom’s – who is pregnant and due in one week but came along as a chaperone (What?!?!? Talk about commitment!) – has yet to find out the sex of her new baby. These are the connections that make me a better teacher. Building community with my kids and their families is key to me being a stronger English Language Arts teacher. Those strong relationships will be what's us through when the learning gets hard.
I’m committed to taking my students out of the building for fieldwork at least once every 6 weeks but I’d love to do it more than that. We’ve got too much to learn and too little time. Let’s get back on that train. Where to next?
What have been some of your favorite fieldwork and field trip experiences as a teacher or a student? Share them in the comments below.