Field trips allow students to see real world applications of school subjects
For the majority of high school students, a field trip is a welcomed break from the mundane and often rigorous school day. The concept of getting out of class for a trip is one that is highly appealing to those who feel that they will be excused from paying attention or exerting any sort of meaningful energy. However, this is not the goal of the field trips that Mamaroneck High School offers its students. Rather, the administrators and teachers of MHS aim to utilize field trips as a way to connect what students are learning inside of the classroom to the real world, thus providing alternative perspectives on topics that are covered in class.
While field trips at MHS may not be the most common occurrence, several courses at
the high school take one or two very impactful and meaningful trips that are intended to build on material that has already been or will be covered throughout the school year. This year, students in United States History classes had the opportunity to experience the Broadway performance of “Hamilton” in Manhattan. In the days leading up to and following the show, students discussed the underlying themes and plot lines of the show in the context of what they were learning in class. Similarly, students in AP Literature took a trip to explore an Ernest Hemingway exhibit that was housed in J.P. Morgan’s Library in NYC. This trip was conducted after students in the course read “The Sun Also Rises,” one of Hemingway’s better-known books. These types of field trips are a great way to reinforce material that has already been learned, as well as to provide new perspectives for students. It is a continuation of the learning process, rather than a relaxing break from school.
There are also field trips at MHS that aim to achieve more than just the fortification of information that has already been taught. Certain field trips give students an opportunity to experience real life applications of the content that they are covering in class. Perhaps the best example of this type of field trip is the AP United States Government trip to experience the New Hampshire Primary. During this trip, not only do students have the opportunity to watch the political process – they become a part of it. Through campaigning for a specific candidate, students have the ability to learn about the campaign process in a hands-on manner. In addition, certain students will also work as journalists or videographers while in New Hampshire. This field trip allows students to experience ways that the material they are learning in class can be applied to real world careers. Often times, students struggle to understand the significance of what they are learning in the classroom. By taking these types of field trips, students can directly visualize the role that certain information and school topics play in the real world.
While MHS does offer a decent amount of field trip opportunities, it is clear that there are disproportionately fewer options in the fields of STEM. For many students, the fields of science and mathematics are the most difficult to place into the context of the real world. Students learning about centripetal force, derivatives and geometric proofs may struggle to understand the importance of these topics. If MHS offered more field trips in these subjects, students would hopefully be able to gain a better sense for why the knowledge that is being imparted on them holds weight beyond the classroom walls.
While MHS does a good job of promoting and coordinating field trips, it is important for both faculty and students to recognize the tremendous value of these trips. It is imperative that the student body capitalizes on the unique opportunities that are presented to experience education in a real-world situation. A field trip cannot be viewed as a one-day vacation. Instead, students should go into a trip knowing that they will be able to learn from new perspectives and angles. From the administrative and faculty perspective, it is essential that there is an emphasis placed on creating field trip opportunities. In addition, teachers must have a fluid plan to get the most out of a trip; this may include preparatory work or post-trip analysis and projects. It is in this way that both students and teachers can gain the greatest academic experience. There is no doubt that when field trips are properly implemented and conducted, their impact can be incredibly advantageous to the learning experience of students.
Artwork by Steven Rome: “Field trips can be a tremendous vehicle for promoting knowledge beyond the parameters of a classroom”