Teen Talk: field trips sacrificed on altar of standardized tests
Wednesday, Oct. 16
Editor's note: This week Fauquier Times begin a new featured column titled “Teen Talk.” The columns will be written by students from local high schools expressing their points of view. This is not part of a class assignment for these students, but rather an opportunity for them to communicate with the larger public from the perspective of a Fauquier high school student. We welcome their participation and believe that our readers will enjoy this different perspective as we fulfill our mandate to feature community voices on our pages.
by Abby Seitz
As a senior in high school, I dearly miss elementary school. While I often find myself longing for naptime and recess, I am incredibly nostalgic for the days spent outside the classroom. I fondly recall at least a dozen field trips, from examining historical artifacts at Learning Tree Farms to hiking at Camp Highroad. In high school, I have been on ten field trips; only two were for a core class. My involvement in newspaper and field hockey has excused me from class eight times. My involvement in extra-curricular activities has the blessing of a handful of guaranteed field trips, however, some students aren’t as lucky and have yet to go on a field trip through their high school. About two years ago, my school’s administration tightened their approval on field trips proposed by teachers.
“We try to limit the amount of field trips taken. With block scheduling, if you take a field trip in every class, you’re missing four days of class a term,” Fauquier administrator Kraig Kelican said. “There are clubs like DECA, FBLA, and FFA where field trips are a part of their class and curriculum. Athletics are beyond our control because we’re at the mercy of the school’s we’re playing.”
Core classes that do not have field trips built into the curriculum are sometimes denied off-campus trips, despite the educational benefits of off-campus excursions.
“I have had many difficulties getting field trips approved,” Fauquier history teacher Liz Monseur said. “There’s so much local history that students are missing out on. I have been able to take my American Civil War class on field trips this year, and I’ve had so many students tell me, ‘This is the first field trip I’ve taken in years,’ and I think that’s really sad.”
Teachers are under an immense amount of pressure, trying to prepare students for May’s SOL and AP tests. The SOL’s have strangled creativity out of the classroom; it’s a travesty that experiential learning is another victim. Standardized testing gives students the impression that learning revolves around textbooks and tests; field trips allow students to apply the knowledge they learn in the class to real-world situations.
Learning is not exclusive to the classroom, and by taking field trips away from core classes, the schools are sending a negative message to students. National monuments, Civil War battlefields, Shakespearean playhouses, and dozens of museums are within an hour’s drive of Warrenton. By limiting field trips, schools are depriving students of the opportunities to connect their curriculum to the world around them.
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