As I reflected on the spectacular photography trip last week, I realised how little I’ve taken the opportunity to venture outside the bubble of my classroom with the children in my class.
Why is that?
A lack of confidence – I was petrified about organising a field trip on my own and having it go badly. I’m not outdoorsy and urban areas have lots of hazards. A little bit of fear is healthy. Fear stopping you from doing great stuff with your students? Not so good.
Too big makes it too complicated – There’s a strong tendency in schools to think that the classes in the same syndicate/phase/year level have to do the same thing at the same time at the same place.
When a large number of children descend on a place, the opportunities for the kids to genuinely interact with the environment around them greatly diminish. Moreover kids spend less time exploring and more time waiting as everyone is loaded and unloaded onto transport, organised into groups etc. Our cities are large enough to accommodate journeys to different places and the learning could be added to by finding out about other classes experiences.
Too much work – It’s a lot easier to organise a trip when you are part of a group of teachers. Filling out paper work, risk assessment, permission forms, finding parent helpers and booking transport all falls on your shoulders. It is a huge amount of work and that’s before you’ve decided where you are going and what you are doing. It’s easy to put trips in the too hard basket.
Fear of something ‘happening’ – In many jurisdictions threat of a law suit keeps kids behind the walls of the school.
Lack of parent support – field trips need help and getting helpers is challenging in environments where both parents work or in sole parent families. I had the opposite problem this trip which is the sign of success.
Cost – In New Zealand I always felt guilty hitting parents up for money for trips knowing that for some families these little extra costs add up. In reality money can always be found both by me and the families but it does make me mindful of making sure the trips are worthwhile.
Crowded curriculum – good field trips take time to plan with the kids and then reflect post event. Yet during the year there are six trans-disciplinary units to cover and school events to contend with. As we add things into our schools, do we take time to declutter our calendars?
Limited knowledge of the local area – I live in Singapore but can easily go through a day without interacting with a single Singaporean. The children I teach are born outside Singapore. My co-workers are predominantly non-Singaporean. I paddle with the American dragon boating team. How can I expect my students to be interacting with their local environment when I do a poor job myself?
When I look at all these reasons I realise how many of these barriers are ones that I construct to keep myself safe and comfortable.
Except safe and comfortable is not where meaningful learning takes place…
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too. Kids benefit so much from experiences outside the four walls of our classrooms. I’ve even turned to “virtual” field trips as a substitute. These are good too, especially when they get to experience a place that it isn’t feasible to travel to. However, these aren’t a substitute for the real-world interactions they would be having if they left the classroom more often. One of my grade-level colleagues is really good about getting parents involved with field trips, which like you said, makes the whole endeavor much more successful. You’re right though, it is “safe and comfortable” to keep my kids confined to my classroom. Time to stop making excuses and get them out of that room!
Virtual field trips in my opinion are a poor replacement for the real thing. Being there is everything.