What Makes A Perfect Field Trip?

If you were to ask me as a teacher what makes up the perfect class field trip, I would probably say it would be having one big structured activity as the focal point--interspersed with pockets of free time to explore at one’s own pace.  Oh yeah, and plenty of imagination sprinkled in with lots of bonding time.  Include these main ingredients and it usually leads to lots of PRE- and POST-classroom lessons to milk the entire experience to the fullest degree.

Our Manassas campus went on such a trip on Friday November 13th as we toured UDVAR HAZY Air and Space Museum. 

Step 1: A Great itinerary.

Our leader, Ms. Mandeep, had a great itinerary arranged for our classes centering on a “How things fly” classroom session that we signed up for.

Once you arrive at this beautiful building you want to hit the ground running (not literally of course, the teacher in me says—running indoors is inappropriate) and cover every square inch.  Fortunately, we had just enough time to squeeze in a quick elevator tour up to the Observation Tower before returning to eat sack lunches outside on the benches.  The 360 degree panorama view was truly breathtaking as we watched various airplanes take off and land at nearby Dulles airport.

step 2: Connect a lesson to an activity.

Our Flight School lesson was loaded with great content and plenty of time for student participation.  In fact, after seeing a film on the science of flight, the instructor had the students make their own paper airplanes and then test the theories out by using a paper clip at the front, middle and back end of the plane.  The students did this by lining up and aiming their airplanes towards a cardboard display that had a cut out hole as a target.

After our flying class was over we still had time to scatter into small groups and get swallowed up by 2 massive hanger buildings that feature aircraft hanging at several levels. 

step 3: Make it personal.

Just building in time for each student to personally select their favorite color and make of airplane and pose for a photo, was worthwhile enough to make this a great field trip.  So we took multiple photos--just as if we were posing in front of works of famous paintings at an Art Gallery.  Except these works of art were vividly in 3D and sprawling above our heads!

Funnily enough, no matter how much each of our clusters felt free to roam around the museum, we still ended up bumping into each other around every corner it seemed, and in the gift shop.  I guess it only goes to show that great minds think alike right?

 All in all, it was a great trip by every measure one could use.  It was highly educational, highly entertaining, and great for forging long term memories with great classmates and staff.  As we walked back to the bus we were already imagining what we wanted to do next—from taking in an IMAX movie to spending more time on other topics like flight pioneers or the history of ballooning.

There’s never as much time as you’d like when you’re having fun, but we felt pretty filled up and content anyway.  Great field trips are like that.  They breed inspiration and remind us that no journey is ever finished.

John Watts, M.Ed.
Special Education Teacher
Alternative Paths Training School

Mr. Watts has been a special education teacher working with students for over 3 decades.  He particularly loves teaching functional academics and promoting community values and social skills.  He is an avid writer, hiker and traveler.  He finds continuous inspiration between his personal and professional life; which in turn leaves him constantly energized and reinvigorated.