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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NCLB In, Field Trips Out

Cinncinatti.com mourns the loss of the field trip. The K-12 staple took students to zoos and museums, historic sites and state capitals. Today, in an educational environment based on testing, those perks, I mean learning experiences, are no longer available in many areas. Instead, there are virtual field trips using Google Earth and museum websites. As a geographer, both the lack of travel to these places and the solution of visiting them via computer, sadden me.

Talk to graduates from my home town public schools from the 1970s and 1980s and I bet you'll hear the same stories I can tell about our field trips.

So far as I know every kindergartner/first grader went to Drumlin Farm, an Audubon site in Lincoln, MA. I vaguely remember mud and animals and maybe, just maybe, I realized that within a few miles of my house, there was an actual farm.

And, I think it was in 3rd or 4th grade, we went to visit a Senator. He was one of my classmates grandfather's, a Senator from Rhode Island. I'm pretty sure we met him at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. Senator Pastore gave each of us a booklet containing the Constitution. I kept that through college. It had "From the office of Senator John Pastore" stamped on it.

The big trip in elementary school was in fifth grade: We spent a full week at an environmental camp (Camp Wingate) on Cape Cod. My mom was a chaperon. To this day I remember riding bikes to the recycling plant, doing a night walk in the woods and creating a huge web of life with yarn on the floor of the "Leoj," the main building named after, I think, the founder, Joel. (Get it? It's Joel backwards!) I remember making mobiles from broken colored glass. My classmate Eric gave his to my Mom; she stayed up with him all night when he had a tummy ache.

The junior high trip was unforgettable. Sadly, only the top science students got to go. We drove to Clarksville, NY (leaving at 6 am) and crawled around in a cave for hours. We used acetylene lamps, looked at rock formations, and examined bat guano. I remember how it felt and smelled to this day. On the way home we ate a McDonalds. In the bricks were imprints of fossils.

I can't recall a high school trip, just band trips, which were pretty educational. My host in Westchester, NY ate Rice Krispies with Pepsi instead of milk. I didn't know you could do that!

I suppose some of the learning completed on these trips could have occurred online. I wonder if I'd remember them as well as I do these experiences?