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A Field Trip Should Not Be a Free-For-All
by Karen Paulson
November 25, 2000


Two weeks ago my husband and I took our three children to an historic site known as Angel Mounds. This is a place to go to learn about the Mississippian Indian culture. Because it is a place where these ancient people are known to have lived, the land is maintained as a museum of sorts, so that people today may come and learn. 

During our visit, "Native American Days" were being celebrated. There was a multitude of activity going on, and an abundance of educational opportunities to choose from, such as pottery making, learning how to use bows and arrows, and dancing with Native Americans dressed in tribal costumes.

As we pulled into the park, I literally gasped at the number of school buses parked on the front grounds. My boys were amazed, as they had never seen what looked to be about a hundred buses all in the same place. Looking for a parking spot, we passed students everywhere. Some appeared to be with adult leaders; some did not. 

Understandably, children get excited about being out of their classrooms. Field trips are something they should look forward to. As I visually scanned the area, however, kids were everywhere; a few were even up in small trees. 

The Mississippian Indians were known as "Mound Builders", and they used mounds as burial sites. There are several mounds at this site, of varying sizes. Some are equivalent to large hills, and are now covered with fully grown trees. Hundreds of kids were running... here, there and everywhere. So many were so completely absorbed with climbing up and running down these large mounds, that it appeared they had no idea WHY they were on this field trip. The lack of respect shown for these mounds made me angry. What made me angrier was to see chaperones, -both teachers and parental volunteers-, just standing and watching the ruckus, as if it were recess.

Children must be taught respect. They will not magically become respectful on their own. Whether a child is home schooled or attends a school makes no difference: it is a parent's job to see that his or her child learns how to show respect and to behave properly when out in the community. Parents who send their children to school cannot and should not expect teachers to do this job. If you do, then you are expecting too much. Teachers are paid to dispense a given curriculum; their focus is on presenting, explaining, testing, and recording. Sure, teachers appreciate HAVING well behaved, respectful students, but they don't have extra time in their day to sit at a potter's wheel and CREATE these students.

Our children need to learn manners from us, the parents. Not only do they need to hear it from us, they need to see it IN us. Children need to observe adults treating others kindly. They need to see us perform acts of thoughtfulness towards others. They need us to explain that being respectful and behaving properly are very important, and they need to know that we expect it of them-- whether they are in the presence of our company, or NOT. We are raising the adults of tomorrow, and the PARENTS of tomorrow...
So, let us be reminded to take our job as the parents of today seriously.

Links of Note
PBS: Unit 1: Before We Travel, We Reasearch
Enhancing Natural Resource Programs with Field Trips
Field Trip Checklist


 
Submitted by:  © Karen Paulson 
Karen is a former elementary teacher who has traded the classroom for home schooling, and full time motherhood. She and her husband reside in the Midwest with their three young children. Her interests include reading and writing, gardening, decorating, diet and nutrition, and helping others to learn about and live with hypoglycemia. 
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