The Disappearing Field Trip

at 10:43 PM

My school district recently announced that it might reconsider its strict limitation on field trips, currently set at but one trip per year per teacher. 

I suppose I should have been glad. When I taught grade and middle school, I typically took my students on six or seven annual adventures - to the Oakland Museum, to Angel Island, even to the local garbage dump.

I cherish one field trip memory in particular. I'd taken my kids to Coyote Hills Regional Park to augment their study of California Native Americans; and even, I hoped, to engender within them an enduring love of the incomparable California outdoors. They'd worked frantically in competitive teams to complete a scavenger hunt amid the visitor center's excellent exhibits of Native artifacts. Afterward, they'd trekked through marshes, thrown spears at moving targets, and learned how the Ohlone used tule plants for everything from roofs to diapers. Gathered within a sweat lodge, they listened spell-bound to a ranger's retelling of an exciting Ohlone myth.  

As we hiked back to the bus, one student fell behind. Worried, I fell into step beside her. She looked up at me and blurted out, nearly crying, "I just don't want today to end!"

Long after that beautiful little girl has completely forgotten most of my classroom lessons, she'll treasure that wondrous day at Coyote Hills. 

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Nonetheless, once high stakes testing became the law of the land, my district decided that it was much more important to keep students in their desks, cram them full of trivia and so raise test scores. I had to cancel most of my trips. 

So now my district might be willing to permit two field trips a year. You'll forgive me if I don't jump for joy. I suspect that, once the state fully implements Common Core computerized testing to evaluate individual teachers, no field trips will be allowed at all. 

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You see, education is no longer about children. It's about using children to make us, their educators, look good, or at least not so bad.        With a Perspective, I'm David Ellison.        David Ellison teaches history and Spanish in Union City.

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