Going out is not an activity that occurs spontaneously. We must be prepared to Go Out and this process can take some time. Going Out involves a number of stages, and each of these requires a different set of skills. These skills should be built piece by piece, and it should not be assumed that children have already acquired them. Many of these exercises and presentations may evolve from discussions with the children following a trip, or in anticipation of one. Foreseeing problems and dealing with them before they emerge is an important element of independence and responsible planning. A first step here is to take the children on a guide-planned trip. Such trips may spark a new interest in children!
Before the field trip, we practiced those types of skills on the nature walks where the lessons of grace and courtesy were repeated continuously: walking in straight lines one after another with their partners abreast keeping to the right side of the sidewalk, yielding to other pedestrians. Also we were practicing safety situations if an animal (e.g. a snake) is met on the way, how to behave in this case. In the classroom we had many discussions about the planning, scheduling, behaviors, responsibilities, grace and courtesy, and so on. Every student went through the process of organizing and preparing the field trip so the process is familiar for them now.
After several weeks of practicing, the time came to test all the knowledge and skills in the field. On the bus ride up, the children sang songs, played games, talked with each other quietly, read books. When we arrived to Flagstaff we stopped at Thorpe Park first, to stretch the legs and to eat lunch. We then proceeded to our first visit at Lowell Observatory. At the observatory the students had a chance to look at the sun through the telescope, talk about the sun and the Earth (the information they already knew from one of the first great lessons from the beginning of the year), explore other exciting things on the territory of the observatory, and we finished with a lecture about Pluto, the dwarf planet that was discovered by Percival Lowell, who founded the observatory.
From there, we headed to the cabins, which the children found comfortable and exciting. Everybody found their beds, unloaded the bus by placing the food food in the appropriate places, and after our settling in was finished, they had time to play on the playgrounds, dance in the cabins, and then relax by having a brief nap. When the time came, the students prepared dinner, served the tables, and cleaned up for our next trip to Lowell Observatory. On our second visit, we started on the solar system path where the children could read interesting facts about each planet, and then we attended a lecture about the solar system. The children were listening attentively and with interest, were asking serious questions, and, in the end, had an opportunity to look in a telescope at Sirius, the brightest star in the Earth's night sky. The time when we got back to the cabins the children were satiated with the information and tired after the long day, they got to sleep very fast. In minutes everybody was snoring.
Next day, early in the morning, the children woke up with excitement in expectation of the trip to the Meteor Crater near Winslow. A new group of students prepared the breakfast, served the tables, and after cleaned up swiftly. The crater was waiting.
The Crater met us with strong winds. Nevertheless, despite of the wind, the children were determined to explore everything about meteors, and they used that opportunity to full extent. First they had a hike inside the crater where they could look in telescopes at different points of interest. Then we watched a movie about how the crater was formed by the meteor, and, briefly, where and how other meteors formed other craters. The museum provided the children with a large amount of information, visual aids, and hands-on materials: they found out about meteors, asteroid belt, comets, could use a magnet on different types of meteors, watch other movies about meteorites, play a game where they made their own meteors and bombarded different planets of the solar system, used a microscope to explore different meteorites, found all the meteor craters on the planet. All of the kids were very interested and engaged in all the information at their finger tips; it was beautiful to watch their curiosity! When everything was studied it was time for lunch and then our return home. Our first Going Out overnight trip was a huge success and a very memorable one. We look forward to our next in the upcoming school year!
And, as usual, the "Peek into the Classroom"
Denis, Mr. Fernando, and Ms. Lucy.