We recently returned to Disney World and while in line for It’s A Small World, we met a group of 8th graders who were there on a field trip. One boy behind us wanted to talk to a group of his friends in front of us so we offered to let them get ahead of us. But they told us that they just wanted to talk and the guy would get back to his place in line and he did. I was really impressed with how well behaved all of them were and so I started a conversation with them. I hate that I didn’t get their school name or I would email their principal because I was so impressed with them. Not once did I hear any inappropriate language or behavior.
They told me that the whole 8th grade from a NC school came to Disney in 7 buses! (All I could think of was the adults with them and “Bless their hearts!”) I did ask how many bottles of aspirin was brought by the chaperones and all of the kids laughed.
It was interesting to hear that they had “school” for 2 hours each morning and they had a list of “required attractions” that they had to go on. One boy showed me his handout that listed the items and they had to choose one from one group etc. It’s a Small World was actually a requirement. I was impressed how the school made this out to be a fun but educational trip.
As I went to the different attractions, I started thinking about how they could be used for lessons and was thrilled at how many of them could be used as an introduction or enhancement to a lesson. We went to one called the Sum of All Thrills where you can design something and then experience it. My husband and I designed a roller coaster with a loop and corkscrew turns. You had to use a ruler to determine the height and then turn a knob to change the speed. Then you test it on the screen to see if it will work and make adjustments as necessary. When it is done, you get in this simulator and actually experience it virtually. The seats you sit in are on a mechanical arm and you move up, down, around, and even upside down. The cover comes over your head down to your waste and you are watching a screen as if you are really on a roller coaster. It was wonderful!
Of course Epcot is just educational everywhere you turn. The World Showcase has exhibits from different countries so it seems like a permanent World’s Fair. Innovations shows different inventions and learning activities. One was “The Great Piggy Bank Adventure” that talks about saving and investing your money. You actually take this ceramic piggy bank around to the different stations and enter it into the exhibit. At the end the machine weighs your piggy bank to see how much you saved. I think this would be a great learning activity for students!
Animal Kingdom was like a giant zoo with lots of real animals from around the world. There were lots of information about the different animals as well as staff stationed throughout the park to help explain anything and answer questions.
There are tons of learning experiences throughout each park.
I know that in times of bad economies that it is hard to justify field trips but I truly believe they can be so educational. If I couldn’t bring students some places, there are virtual field trips online that would be the next best thing.
What field trips have you taken your students on that have been successful as learning experiences? Please share.
Original photos by Pat Hensley