If time travel were possible, I think one of the first things I would do would be to visit all of my former teachers who planned field trips for my classmates and I and give them a giant hug. Field trips are stressful for any teacher. The months and months of planning that go into making trips valuable opportunities for students is unpaid and oftentimes overlooked. For me, though, they offer me the best bonus I could ever ask for as a teacher – the opportunity to see my students applying what they have been taught in settings that make learning fun and organic!
“If you haven’t experienced an escape room with your students, you haven’t lived!”
This year, our annual EGMSTEM trip was down to New Orleans, Louisiana. For us in the northern part of the state, it can be easy to feel disconnected or unplugged to the cultural heart of our state. Louisiana has a long-standing history of being the home (both temporary and lifelong) of some of our history’s most innovative and eclectic figures. Knowing about our state’s history and how these figures worked to sharp both culture and industry in our state is something I wanted my students to live, breathe, and experience this year.
If you haven’t experienced an escape room with your kids, you haven’t lived! Many of my students have experienced and loved the BreakoutEDU version, so I thought it would be neat to challenge them to a professional one. There are times when we as teachers take a step back and wonder if what we are doing in our classrooms is making a difference. During that hour that I was locked in a room with my 8th graders (many of whom I have taught for three years in a row), I was blown away by them. Their ability to think critically, work and communicate together, use their executive skills to manage their time and personnel, and emotionally support one another to ensure success was something I felt was…well, it made the months and months of planning the trip worth it in that one moment.
The National World War II Museum
I stress anytime we go to a major museum. Hopefully, that’s a natural feeling to have as a teacher. Priceless antiques. Expensive exhibits. Large crowds. 50+ EGMSTEM kids. No biggie, right?
The National World War II Museum, which was known as the D-Day Museum and was much smaller when I was child, is something I wish all students had access to for some pretty big reasons. Heading in to the museum, my students were tasked with a few basics – be respectful, take moments to absorb and live what you are seeing, and above all, if you see an elderly veteran volunteer, speak with them and allow them a few moments to connect with you.
Proud teacher moments can be few and far between. I was fortunate to experience many of them during our trip to New Orleans. Instead of walking by the volunteers and heading straight to the interactive exhibits, the EGMSTEM kids actively sought out the docents and engaged with them organically. Many of my students came back with stories, pictures, and even mementos from the docents they spoke with. My hope is that these moments will linger with them and leave a lasting impression.
Advice to Other Passionate Educators
Field trips aren’t for the faint of heart. They can be time consuming, a hard sell to many administrators, and expensive for schools and families. However, it’s my firm belief that it’s an obligation we have to our kids to offer them opportunities to experience culture and learning side by side with us in the places where history, science, and progress happens. If you’re a teacher and feel like you’d like to take on the challenge of planning an experience like this one for you and your students, I’d love to share any advice that I can to help enrich your classroom and your students. Reach out!
A huge, public thanks to all of the chaperones that helped me wrangle this amazing group of students! It was thanks to all of you that our kids were able to experience such an amazing trip. If you’d like to see more from our Innovations of the Past STEM trip to New Orleans, click here!