Do We Need A Magic School Bus?

This week, we went on our first two field trips of the school year. On Thursday afternoon, our class went with another Kindergarten class on a walking trip to the Public Library, and on Friday morning, our class went with the same class to Eco House. Just as I reflected last year, I realized the potential for learning that can happen on these kinds of trips.

Click Here To View Thursday's Storify Story, Which Includes Our Trip To The Library

Click Here To View Thursday’s Storify Story, Which Includes Our Trip To The Library

Click Here To View Friday's Storify Story, Which Includes Our Trip To Eco House

Click Here To View Friday’s Storify Story, Which Includes Our Trip To Eco House

These field trips allowed for …

  • the development of oral language skills. Students spoke and listened to each other as they walked to the library. They played with rhyming words as they sang songs and played games on the bus and at Eco House. They developed new vocabulary thanks to the amazing guides at Eco House, and the introduction of new terms with the use of visuals and the hands-on learning experiences that accompanied them.
  • learning through The Arts. At both the library and at Eco House, I noticed the number of stories and concepts that were introduced and/or reinforced with the use of Music, Drama, Visual Arts (at Eco House), and/or Dance. I think that The Arts played a big role in the positive way that people responded to this new learning.
  • reading in context. On our walk to the library, I noticed the number of students that don’t usually choose books to read, but were reading the signs on the buildings and identifying the letters that they saw. The same was true as they looked out the window of the school bus. This is meaningful reading, and environmental text is so important for beginning readers.
  • meaningful math. I was amazed at the amount of math talk that I heard on the school bus yesterday. Students indicated the number of different vehicles that they saw (number sense), the size of different buildings (measurement), and the distance between places (measurement). They even sang counting songs, including Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed, and showed their understanding of number sense and 1:1 correspondence, as they put a finger down for each monkey that fell off of the bed: discussing the new total. On the library trip, I heard many students talking about the distance back to the school (measurement) and the shapes that they saw in various structures (geometry). I only wish that I videotaped all of the great conversations!
  • the development of schema. If we want students to really inquire, they have to have something to inquire about. Building schema gives students more background knowledge so that they can make connections, ask questions, and dig deeper into topics of interest. While the children were tired at the end of our busy day yesterday, it was great to hear how much they remembered about the trip to Eco House and how excited they were to share their new learning. I’m excited to see where this learning takes us next week!

I can’t help but think now about our Board’s goal to have “all students reading at grade level by the end of Grade 1” (Early Years Strategy). What do students need to meet this goal? For some schools, I wonder if field trips need to be a part of this strategy. Is this where the authentic learning happens? Is this where we develop and reinforce the literacy skills that will allow us to reach the Board’s goal? I know that the cost of these trips sometimes stop them from happening, especially in the schools where the children may need these experiences the most. Funds are limited. I totally understand this, but I wonder if there’s a way to change this. How might we get the funds? Would investing the money in these field trips — with the teaching and learning that comes out of these experiences — help more children develop the fundamental skills (Oral Language being a key component of this) so that they can reach these reading goals? Sometimes I wish that I could be Ms. Frizzle and make The Magic School Bus our portable classroom. What do you think?


4 thoughts on “Do We Need A Magic School Bus?

  1. Hi Aviva,
    First, Congrats on accepting a new teaching assignment for the next school year. I am sure you will like the change.

    I agree with your school trip ideas. Some of my students most memorable and significant learning days happened on school trips e.g. science centre, ROM, outdoor education days, water festival, camp etc. Trips can have a lot of educational value but can be difficult for some to organize because the paperwork can be overwhelming and the costs too much. However, the good news is that there are many trips that are subsidized and local. Good luck with your next class trip.


    • Thanks David! I’m definitely happy about my new position, but also sad to be leaving Dr. Davey. It’s a wonderful school, and I’ve learnt a lot. I know that I’m a better teacher now, as a result. I’m excited to apply my learning in a new position.

      I agree that trips can provide wonderful learning opportunities, and yes, the cost and paperwork can sometimes be problematic. That said, I wonder if for some students/schools, trips are an essential program component. Would the experiences that these students get on trips help them reach Language benchmarks by providing them with authentic learning opportunities? I wonder …


  2. I stumbled across this blog through Free College Classes Top 100 Education Blogs and I’ve been devouring the content and questions. I’m not an educator, at least not in the teacher sense. I educate through journalism and connecting dots along the E in STEAM path. However, I have to answer your question about field trips.

    I loved field trips as a kid. I’m from metro Atlanta so the options were endless via a bus. And I still have lesson memories from those times, nearly 30 years later. At the time, I focused on the fun. Hindsight tells me that I enjoyed the trips because they allowed me to focus on what interested me. I’m not a math or science person. I tried, but I don’t have the mental grip to find a way to care about courses.

    Field trips made that interesting, though. We went to a local game ranch in elementary school. I remember seeing the deer and groundhogs, along with goats and lambs. I liked animals so the idea of learning about their coats, lives, etc stuck with me. I didn’t know there were words for the value, only that I enjoyed it. But it was a lesson on husbandry without applying dry concepts.

    I see a repeat in the next generation. My little brother is 8 years younger than me. He loved field trips and for his ADHD it was a vital connection to lesson. His energy had a place to learn from without needing to be sedated. Looking at my 15-year-old niece, I know that the trips in elementary school–even just visits to the school’s cafeteria–helped her find a niche: baking. Now she’s working on getting her high school diploma to attend the local community college.

    Not every child will learn the same way. I recently helped a 10-year-old active, outdoorsy type boy with his homework. He hated the lessons, even though they were short, after a full day of the same environment. Just as he wasn’t engaged in field trips, either. For him, school became a chore based on home-life lessons and disruptive cycles. There was no value in either space, which is sad. All I could do was encourage and boggle at the math hoops presented to him.

    I bring all this up because each field trip, regardless of enjoyment or not, expands a young child’s world into a larger context. I think the experience is vital to understanding key points that will help. Had I been allowed more access to ‘fun’ versions of math and science I probably would have learned more. I need a real life example to make it matter. Hence why I think imaginary numbers are useless to this day. Context is something that is often missing in education because of the incessant testing rounds to measure a very-limited view of success. Make context and opportunity match up with basic units and most children will find lessons the next day relevant.

    I’m not a teacher. But I am someone who wants to read up on how the system’s changed since I graduated 16 years ago. And to be prepared when I eventually have kids, so I can read the signs on where struggle happens. And your blog makes me think. It taps into another area of how should be change expectations as generations set apart from each other.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Jessica, but also for sharing your thinking! I agree with you about field trips. It’s these experiences that help build our schema and allow us to question and learn more. And maybe, they also make us feel differently about subjects than we may have felt before. I never really thought of it that way before, but it does make a lot of sense.


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