Field trips don't have to be fancy, but they do have to be equitable!
I remember going on lots of field trips when I was a kid in school and how exciting it was to leave the classroom and experience learning in an authentic setting for the day! Years later, when I became a classroom teacher in the public school, it wasn't easy to organize field trips and learning opportunities outside the classroom. There was no budget, and so often, we would have to ask the students to pay out of pocket. Asking the students to pay made the opportunities highly inequitable because not every student could afford even a nominal fee. As a high school teacher, I also had to arrange and pay for my substitute to stay in my classroom with kids who could not go on the field trip! Today, it is the same story when my younger son goes on a field trip with his class. The parents are asked to pay for the transportation and the cost of the field trip, and some kids cannot afford it, even if the price is $5 per student. Whenever there is a field trip at my son's school, I always donate extra money for a kid who cannot afford it. It's my way of helping make the opportunity equitable for all kids. When I was a kid, I remember going on several field trips per year. Nowadays, my son is lucky if his class goes on even one.
When I opened Bon Voyage, I knew I wanted to make sure that students had ample opportunities for learning and applying skills outside the classroom. I had to think outside the box a bit because Bon Voyage is an online school, and we have students from all backgrounds that are part of our student community. The travel programs were a huge part of the program, but I knew that not every student would afford them, as much as I wanted every student to participate. Ideas began forming in my head about how I could use the technology at my disposal and design activities that would give the students equitable opportunities to get out of the classroom and into the community, using their learning from the classroom to apply their skills in real-world settings. One day, I was in the grocery store, and a lightbulb went off in my brain! As I was perusing the aisles, I realized how linguistically and culturally rich the grocery store can be! I started thinking of all the vocabulary, and grammatical structures learned and used when at the grocery store! I am probably the only one in this universe who analyzes the grocery store for lesson ideas, but I am very serious when I say that the grocery store makes a fantastic field trip! When we began our food unit in French 1, I told the students that we would cook a recipe together. I created a grocery store scavenger hunt for the students, and the next class period, I was on my phone with them, on Zoom, at the grocery store giving them a tour in French! Did I look silly? Yup! Did people stare at me and wonder what I was doing? For sure! My students loved it, though, and they were learning authentically! I live in a small enough area that the people that work at the grocery store know me, and even some of my former students work there, and when they see me walking through the grocery store, speaking to my phone in French, they say, "there goes Madame Porter!" After a trip to the grocery store with my class, I give them their own scavenger hunt, tell them to get the ingredients on the list, and write how much it cost them in French.
This is the part that gets tricky, and you have to be willing to make, sometimes significant, accommodations for students who may not have the resources at home to do this project outside of class on their own. Sometimes kids need help with transportation, or they cannot afford the ingredients to make the recipe. I have picked kids up and taken them myself to do the project, or I have paid out of my pocket for kids so they can participate equitably. There are other resources for getting kids help as well, sometimes the school's PTO/PTA/PTSA can help, or there are grants that teachers can apply for to get the funding needed. Anytime there is an out-of-the-classroom learning experience, though, you have to be constantly thinking about equity and your student population.
I travel abroad quite a bit, so I always make videos and take pictures of grocery stores in the countries I visit. I have even been known to give a French grocery store tour on Zoom in France! I provide students with a day and time to log in, and off we go!
Another fun activity I like to do to get my students out of the classroom is my house tour on Zoom. I also have done a walking tour of the city and asked students to tour their homes and towns. Again, this can be an equity issue because some students do not feel comfortable making videos or taking pictures of their homes.
If this is the case, I give them some alternatives like drawing pictures of the house's rooms. I have done walking tours of Montreal, Paris, Vichy, Quebec City, and Bruxelles. I have done tours of the Musée d'Orsay, the Opéra de Vichy, Le Sacré Cœur, and history museums in Quebec City! I have done these tours in both French and English. Anytime I travel, I see it as an opportunity to share something new with my students and help them experience a virtual field trip. If you are a teacher who does not get the chance to travel very often, start with what is available in your local community! There are also lots of virtual tours and resource videos on YouTube! You can access my videos, which are updated regularly, at the LW5S YouTube Channel. Due to Covid, many of the museums worldwide have been offering free virtual visits! This is a great resource to use in the classroom! All of the treasure hunt activities can be found in our Teacher Resource Share Drive.
I teach through Performance-Based Learning (PBL) Thematic Unit studies, so every unit I create has a project that has students apply knowledge and skills in a real-world situation. Many of our Global Citizenship lessons challenge students to visit places they would not normally visit. For example, sometimes I challenge students to visit a house of worship that is different from their own - for example mosques often welcome visitors and oftentimes visitors are welcomed with a tour and food tasting! During Global Citizenship classes I give students monthly challenges to get
outside their comfort zones and interact with people with whom they would not normally interact. I also challenge students to serve their communities and many of our Global Citizenship units end in a service project or other type of community awareness. One of my favorites is a book study of the picture book "It Takes A Village" by Jane Cowen-Fletcher. This is a simple story based off of the African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child," and shows how powerful it can be to live in a community of those who help each other. Students learn about Benin, a country located on the west coast of Africa, a former French colony. Then students are led to explore the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and then use those goals to design and carry out a service project. In creating this project, the students are learning
and applying skills outside the classroom, they are interacting with others in the community, and they are led to realize how they can make an impact. This also helps students discover what causes they are passionate about, and come up with ideas to continue serving their communities and discovering their passions. Some students decide to serve a cause that is important in their local community, while others choose more global issues. No matter what cause they choose to serve, the students are receiving a very important lesson in what it means to serve others selflessly and without conditions. It is quite rewarding to see students get excited about the cause they have chosen to serve and how much they learn and grow with these experiences.
Technological advances over the past 20 years since I started my teaching career have definitely made "out of the classroom" experience more accessible for students. I have even been able to bring in guest speakers from all over the world to enhance the learning for my students! It is incredibly powerful when a teacher can bring the world to their students and provide equitable opportunities for all students. It is so important to scaffold real-life experiences for students because the powerful learning really happens when the students are experiencing the learning with all of their senses! I want to challenge each and every one of you to find a way to facilitate opportunities for your students to learn outside the classroom that are equitable and experiential. Be sure to comment on what you decide to do!