by Amy Baez, Staff Writer, December 2021
Being able to express our creativity by taking photos in the city of Boston or being resourceful by collecting data on a river watershed are fortunate ways we can leave the classroom and still learn. Field trips significance towards our education can go unnoticed, and having more off-campus opportunities in core classes can benefit us all. However, what is preventing us from increasing school outings during each school year?
Dean of Faculty Maura Sullivan plays a crucial role in field trips whenever teachers send their plans her way. “I oversee the approval process for field trips since I have access to the whole calendar and have a big picture view of what is happening at the school,” Sullivan said.
Many factors go into the approval process of a field trip, which can make the job more challenging. Sullivan said, “The hard thing is the schedule. Time is so valuable at Nobles, so when kids are away for whatever reason, there are consequences to that.” School schedules for students and teachers alike are packed with classes and extracurricular activities. All are accounted for when deciding what time and day a field trip should be scheduled.
The last thing students want is to miss a day of school because it makes them fall behind in class. When arranging school trips, Sullivan’s primary goal is to be aware of when to have them so it does not interfere with teachers’ schedules. It is important to have a balance, so students do not have stress catching up in classes.
Field trips are typically avoided during the first semester because teachers are more apt to give tests. Sullivan is also aware of touring season during the first semester and how having students active on campus to show is preferred when potential students are touring the school.
Sullivan does not organize the outings herself; however, that job depends on the teachers. Teachers have the privilege and responsibility to organize their field trips, which can be a challenge in itself. Science Faculty Deb Harrison said, “It can be challenging to find the right date that works with a busy semester schedule and within the days allowed for field trips while trying to balance all of the important guidelines for such trips.”
The amount of effort needed to end up with a successful field trip both teachers and students enjoy is worth it in the end. Visual Arts Faculty teacher Curtis Mann said, “If I could, I would take you all to museums once a month.”
Mann has self-created the visual arts field trips and bases his Photo II trips on the exhibitions a museum could be showing, which plays into his current curriculum. Visiting the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) is a popular full-day trip many students take in an introductory visual arts class. Photo II students also travel to the Institute of Contemporary Fine Arts (ICA), another full-day trip where students have the liberty to take photos in the city.
Relating to these trips, Mann said, “You are open to learning a whole new experience and at the same time learn about art. I can show you art in class, but seeing it in person and the employees working at the museum, all that stuff is learning. It adds so many different layers to what learning is.”
Harrison shares a similar belief about how field trips are beneficial. Harrison said, “Experiential learning and immersion in a focused, discipline-specific context is enriching. I think having more field trips at Nobles is something to explore further.”
Harrison runs multiple science-related trips, including the Charles River Watershed Study, AP Environmental Science Manomet trip, and a Harvard MedScience trip for her Physiology and Astronomy classes. “The Boston area resources available to tap into for trips are vast, and there are numerous exciting opportunities for learning through immersion in a particular field and for a more extended time than a class period might allow,” Sullivan said.
“There are so many ways to learn. The classroom is not always the best place to learn about certain subjects. You learn just on the way to the ICA on the bus with each other, driving through neighborhoods,” Mann said. Exploring new places helps students become more engaged and willing to learn because we can all agree that being stuck in a classroom for too long can affect our comprehension of the curriculum.
School trips may be fun and have many educational benefits for the people involved, but what about the teachers a student would miss class for? Sullivan said, “Teachers feel as though a downside of field trips is that they have to spend a lot of their free time catching students up.”
Sullivan said, “We can fix the problem by setting up certain days for field trips and certain times of the year for field trips. Hoping for a new schedule and discussion around it will help with this process.”
Field trips are a compelling way for students to think critically, communicate and engage with their classmates, and be curious without the fear of receiving a bad grade. Field trips should become a priority, and creating a new schedule that will include them will be worthwhile.