About the Author: This is a guest article by Andrea Sopher. Andrea works on a team of seven 5th grade teachers at Licking Valley Elementary School. This team has worked together to take the entire 5th grade to Washington, D.C. for 6 years. Andrea recently took on the role of Trip Leader, along with Jami Rockey.
“I can’t wait until the D.C. trip!”
“How long will it take for us to get there?”
“Will we stay in a hotel?”
“Will we take regular school buses to get there?”
“What will we see while we are there?”
“How long will we stay?”
“Can I buy souvenirs?”
Can you hear the excitement in their questions? Every year, for the past 6 years, we have taken our 5th grade students out of their small-town USA rural community and traveled 385 miles to Washington, D.C. When asked why by our friends (who are not in education), we only have to reflect on the experience this provides our students to find our reasons.
It is no doubt that this trip is a huge undertaking for our team of teachers, but there is also no doubt that it is worth it. Many of our students (not all), have never left the county in which we live, other than when they visit the statehouse in 4th grade. Some have never ridden an escalator or gone through a security checkpoint. Others have never stayed in a hotel before. This trip introduces our students to our country’s capital, but it goes so much deeper as well.
“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” –Benjamin Disraeli
Our 5th grade students may not remember all that they have seen, but they will remember more than we can imagine. This trip builds relationships between the teachers, students, and parents. Our bus ride gives us the chance to talk and get to know one another, learning things that we might not find out in the classroom. Communication lines are opened up with parents and a comfort level is fostered that can be difficult to have otherwise. The relationships we have deepened by the end of our three days will last through the end of the year and often, for many years to come.
When we return to the classroom, this experience provides a jump off point for many lessons. The research they do has meaning and purpose. The relationships we have developed help some students take risks that they might not have, otherwise. The new knowledge we have about our students guides our lesson planning and decision making in the classroom. Their experiences have developed a new set of background knowledge that is not only helpful in understanding government in Social Studies, but with other subjects as well.
Taking 200+ people to Washington, D.C. is a big undertaking, but what we get in return makes it all worthwhile. While relationship building may not be in the common core, any good teacher will tell you that it is the foundation for helping all of our students succeed.
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