I love The Magic School Bus. I especially love Ms. Frizzle. She seems like the most amazing teacher ever! She’s always aware of student interests, strengths, and needs. She provides multiple opportunities for her students to “learn by doing.” She embraces mistakes, and helps her students learn from these mistakes. Her incredible field trips help her students develop their schema so that they can make connections, share new learning, and ask important (and relevant) questions. I want to be Ms. Frizzle when I grow up! Today made me realize that if we want to close the achievement gap in classrooms, maybe it’s time to think more like Ms. Frizzle.
Today, the three Grade 1 classes at our school went to Eco House/Green Venture. It was thanks to the recommendation from a Grade 1 teacher at another school, Lori St. Amand, and a generous offer from Eco House, that we were able to make this trip happen. It was amazing to sit back and watch the thinking and learning that went into the build up, and then experience, of today’s trip.
The trip made me think about what our students need to succeed. Every year, our schools and Boards puts money and resources into programs and supports for students. I think that there’s lots of thinking and research behind these decisions. As someone that has used many of these interventions with students, I can certainly see the impact of them. But now I think back to a conversation that I had with a fellow teacher during one of our PA Day sessions. She was talking about a student that she supports in another class, and while this student has made gains in her reading skills, the progress is slow. She doesn’t know all of the vocabulary in the books. She doesn’t understand all of the content. Why? Much of this information is totally new for her. She hasn’t seen or experienced the situations discussed in the text. So as she’s trying to use letter-sounds and contextual clues to decode unfamiliar words, she’s lacking the vocabulary to make educated guesses and make sense of what she’s reading. What does she need? A field trip! A chance to touch, explore, question, build schema, and gain vocabulary.
Yes, there are many students in our Board and others, that have regular opportunities to go out, visit different places, and have these experiences at night, on the weekend, and on holidays. But this is not the reality for all students. And maybe, as we look at different schools, with different students and different needs, we need to add something to that list of resources and interventions: field trip funds.
- A chance to go to outdoor education programs.
- The Science Centre.
- Art Galleries.
- Art Studios (to participate in studio work).
- Businesses connected to current inquiries.
These are all “classrooms” beyond the school one. If coupling these field trips with the supports in place, and the rich reading, writing, and oral language opportunities available in classrooms, the potential for growth is huge!
Yes, some field trips can happen online. Many students though need more than seeing an image or watching a video. They need the “tactile connection” that comes from going and experiencing the field trip LIVE. I know that our schools are doing everything they can to support these excursions, but budgets are always limited, and many of these trips (especially with bus costs) are expensive. I don’t know what’s possible, but I do know that I want to see and hear more of the thinking, vocabulary, and questions that I witnessed today. What impact do you think that field trips could have on closing the achievement gap? How do we access the funds to support this “out of the classroom” learning? I wonder what Ms. Frizzle would do!