We are a school that travels. From the school’s inception in 1979, our students have been taking trips nearly every month. Within Hoboken. Into New York. And, in the Upper School, overnight trips further away. Trips are not optional. They are essential to fulfill our mission “to stimulate and broaden the experiences of city children.”
Below are students on a Hudson Hike in 1982. Kindergarten through third grade still go on the Hudson Hike every year.
Why do field trips matter?
Because they are carefully planned to connect to the learning that goes on in school. Teachers work hard to prepare students before a trip so they have an understanding of the subject matter. The field trip makes the subject real and alive. Then information and experiences from the trip are used afterward in reflections, artwork, and further studies.
What happens during field trips?
- interaction with experts
- experiencing in real life the work and ideas that we want children to explore
- learning to work with peers in new situations
Let me give you a few examples.
The Trees and Sky preschool classes took four Hoboken walking tours during their medieval studies. On two trips, they observed and sketched buildings like the Stevens Gatehouse and the Adams Court building. On two additional trips, they observed and sketched stained glass windows at the synagogue and Our Lady of Grace Church.
They revisited their work back in the classroom. They explored what they knew before the trips and what they knew after the trips.
Kindergarten students have been studying South Africa and Mexico. As they grow in higher ordered thinking, they have been comparing and contrasting these countries and their people groups to our own. Today, the students are at the Museum of Natural History. They will visit the Hall of African Animals, the Hall of African Peoples, the Hall of Mexico and Central America, and the Hall of South American Peoples.
The fourth and fifth grades took a walking tour of New Amsterdam in lower Manhattan while studying Colonial New York. Soon they will visit the Intrepid Museum as an extension of their STEAM study of flight and rocketry. Then the fifth and sixth grade will go to the Beuhler Challenger and Science Center and complete a simulated mission that will allow them to perform the same “hands-on” tasks that are done by real scientists, engineers, researchers, and astronauts.
This past fall, seventh and eighth grade students spent time preparing for their art exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many had a firsthand look at the masterpieces that they had been researching. They wrote and sketched in the galleries as they worked on their projects.
Alumni tell me that overnight trips are some of the most memorable ones. A Mennonite community in Pennsylvania welcome our fourth and fifth grade students in the midst of their farm units.
And the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade go away to the Spruce Lake Outdoor Education Center. For three days and two nights, they learn there what they cannot in the school building. They use a compass to find their way in the woods. They look at the stars in the night sky. They hike. They have enormous amounts of fun. They grow closer together.
Trips teach resourcefulness, flexibility, and confidence. Teachers, parents, and students share experiences together that build community. At the same time, the content of the trip deepens students’ studies by giving them additional information. Creating new questions and challenges.
Many classrooms will be empty over the next few weeks. And that is a very wonderful thing.