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Field Trips and Overnight Field Trips – Experiential Learning to the Max!

Field Trips and Overnight Field Trips – Experiential Learning to the Max!

The Willows curriculum, based in part on the principles of experiential learning, offers engaging, hands-on approaches to bring learning to life for students. Yet certain lessons benefit from a broader scope than the confines of our classrooms. Moving outside campus offers an alternate, real-world perspective that brings curriculum to vivid life. Field trips and overnight trips become more than just a day or week-long outing away from traditional classroom activities, providing a unique setting to expand critical thinking. They also present students with the opportunity to view a glimpse of history and consider a diversity of thought and worldview through varying customs and cultures. For example, our 5th grade students are immersed in American history studies throughout the school year and their school trip to Boston offers them a look into the past as they visit historical landmarks and walk the Freedom Trail. Similarly, the 7th grade trip to the South brings their Civil Rights studies to life.

The pertinence of field trips in the context of Willows curriculum is fairly obvious. There are also other reasons that offer a key to understanding why we value trips in the first place. Based on a recent study, researchers were able to determine that students who have the opportunity to attend field trips “express greater tolerance for people with different opinions … have fewer behavioral infractions, … and receive higher course grades.” This research-based evidence demonstrates the benefits of educational time outside the classroom, and why we emphasize the merits of field trips, even for our youngest students.

In addition to the general advantages of trips, the destinations for learning integrate seamlessly with the material presented in the classroom. For example, our second grade spends a large portion of their science curriculum learning about the oceans and aquatic life. This year, they visited the California Science Center, to get up close and personal with aquatic ecosystems, as well as Pacific tide pools, where students were able to learn about the smallest kinds of marine life in their natural setting. These trips show students the real-world implications of what they learn. Children recognize a concept or teaching coming directly from the teacher in class, but then experiencing that same concept in the real world is a completely different form of discovery and learning. Trips like this can truly impact a child’s life by exposing them to places, people, and occupations that they might not have considered prior.

As Willows students grow a bit older, they become more prepared for independence, and therefore, take their first overnight field trips. Starting in fourth grade, students travel further and longer on trips, and in 5th grade and Middle School, trips are designed to promote a diversity of thought and an expanded worldview. Recently, our 7th grade class took the first Willows trip to Atlanta, Georgia, and Montgomery and Birmingham in Alabama to visit multiple sites that honor the Civil Rights movement and the African American experience in the United States.

Willows on a field trip in Washington D.C., private school Los Angeles

Willows taking in The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL

They visited The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, honoring the African American victims of lynching throughout the country, Touring a physical monument presents a visual and tangible method for students to understand the sheer number of people lost to hate violence, a concept that is difficult to make clear in a classroom over 2,000 miles away.

6th grade Willows students in D.C., The Willows a private school

Willows visits the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL 

In Birmingham, Willows’ students visited the 16th Street Baptist Church, a site where in 1963, a white supremacist terrorist bombed the Church, killing four young Black girls. Now designated as a UNESCO world heritage site for its importance as “the location of iconic events in the mid-20th century civil rights movement for African-Americans”, touring the Church not only honors those lost in the bombing, but more so, serves to contextualize the movement as a whole, showing how these tragic events are not ancient history, but far more recent and impactful than they seem in a classroom context.

Expanding a child’s mind is always The Willows’ goal, and engaging and enriching field trips offer one way to accomplish this. Each trip’s purpose is to provide an extensive experiential learning opportunity and to encourage students’ deep thinking and questions. The benefits of these trips can last a lifetime.

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