Field trips are recognized as important moments in learning; a shared social experience that provides opportunities for students to find and explore new things in an authentic setting. Their importance is supported by many professional organizations – just to name a few - the National Science Teachers Association which asserts field trips can “deepen and enhance” classroom study and the National Research Council which affirms that quality science curriculum is one that extends beyond the walls of the classroom. Do not take me wrong, I am all about field trips and enhancing hands-on, outside classroom learning experiences.
Then why did a recent notice to an overnight trip for my fourth grader took my husband and I by surprise? Too many questions, too many doubts. Then, I sat down and went over what was worrying me. I could think of 4 different good reasons why I did not consider this learning opportunity as an appropriate one for a 9 year old.
1- Growing up too fast – what is left for the teenage years?
First thought was, isn’t it too soon? In a world in which too many is happening too soon, are we sure we do not have any responsibility whatsoever of what is “that happening too soon” is sometimes our own making? I definitely think so, if a 9-10 year old is already having a 5 hour drive overnight field trip what is left for the teenage years? I know times have changed but most of us probably did not have this type of learning experiences so soon. Are we “quemando etapas”? I know some parents and educators might think that I sound old school, but honestly as primary educators of our kids both parents and teachers supposed to be looking after them and deciding for them what is best for their futures.
2- Maximizing Learning opportunities and exploring our home - Miami
I do believe one of the reasons of this upcoming field trip to St. Augustine is that it is a great opportunity for kids to experience first-hand the history of Florida and USA which is a big part of the social science curricula this year. I get it, but I also get that there are so many other learning opportunities near our beautiful Miami that are still unexplored. Just to name a few, history museums and many other great museums, the Lighthouse which is a few blocks from our school, the Seminole Okalee Indian Village, the Freedom Tower, the Spanish monastery, so many great options. Has our school or even us parents taken kids to any of these places yet?
Planning is also an issue - I have chaperoned a few other times to nearby field trips which unfortunately have not been adequately planned to make the most of a learning experience. And if this overnight trip ends up having that same sort of “unplanned preparation”, being mostly a continuous set of structured activities which are paced to a crazy schedule to be able to check off places in a pre-set list- then I am not up for it.
Luckily, a field trip should be all about pre-planning, pre-envisioning learning topics and engaging with kids prior, while and after the trip. Research shows that “prior knowledge and interests of the students impacts learning during the visit (Falk & Adelman, 2003), the social context of the visit, teacher agendas, student experiences during the field trip, and the presence or absence and quality of preparation and follow-up”. So, the question to teachers at schools is not necessarily where to go but rather how can they maximize the learning potential of a field trip.
3- Alone Overnight stay
Honestly when I travel with my husband and kids – I do not book separate rooms for my kids. Is that even legal?
Whenever we go out of town and we book a hotel room, I make sure I get accommodations for my husband as well as my 2 girls in the same room indicating their specific ages at time of booking. Legally, a 9 year-old is not supposed to book or stay overnight by herself in a hotel room. In fact, if you research on guidelines for leaving kids by themselves the following is suggested – 8 to 10 years should not be alone for more than 1 1/12 hours and only during daylight. 13 and 15 year olds may be left unsupervised but not overnight. Check more for guidelines here.
Even when they assure me that a school teacher will be in the room next to my girl “supervising”– she is still sleeping with other 9 year olds by herself. Honestly, if I do not do it when we travel as a family it makes no sense whatsoever to even consider it possible when she is on a school trip.
4- Separation/Difference – who is allowed and who is not?
One of the main concerns that I have is that my daughter might feel sad, less or disappointed that she might be one of the few students not going. I would not want her to feel that way and especially different from the rest. Are we as adults creating opportunities to make kids feel different already?
Finally, and maybe a 5th argument is that there are no parent chaperones allowed on this trip.
Would I be more comfortable going with her as a chaperone? You bet! But then how would other moms not able to sign up feel? Not fair, right?
Well, we will never know. Chaperones are not allowed on this trip and going by yourself in a separate car with your family or a bunch of moms would be considered stalking or so they tell me.
Experience the chaperone role ever - I have friends that have experience what it is to be a chaperone for their kids’ field trip but this trip is chaperone free as I said. So, my question then is – Am I going to be able to experience it ever or is it something that is non-applicable this year? We will see…I think it is part of those mom experiences you do not want to miss.
After writing all my thoughts and arguments I am 100% convinced that my girl is not going. What are your thoughts? Would love to hear about them!