In elementary school, there was one day that, for me, was holier than all others. That day, my friends, was field-trip day.
I eagerly anticipated the opportunity to take my brown bag lunch, board the school bus and spend the day at the zoo, the planetarium or the history museum. Even then, I recognized that there was something magical about the ability to transcend the routine and have my class transported to a completely new location.
As we get older, the number of field trips tends to trickle off. By the time we’re in college, we seldom get the chance to spend a day learning outside the classroom. The vast majority of classes never leave the lecture hall or seminar room.
Last week, I had that sense of magic reinvigorated when I travelled with my Contemporary Politics, Policy and Journalism class to Washington. Rising at the crack of dawn for an early train, my classmates and I spent the day at the office of Bloomberg News, where our professor, Albert Hunt, is the executive editor in Washington.
As we watched our professor record a news segment in the in-house studio, we became insiders at a political news establishment, which certainly could not have happened in our classroom at the Annenberg School for Communication.
However, in my time at Penn, these field trips have been few and far between. Sure, Penn does offer some exceptions to the typical classroom-based learning. The Academically Based Community Service courses allow students across many different departments to integrate service learning into their educational exploration.
Nonetheless, not every course can or should be an ABCS course, and it’s unrealistic for all professors to take their classes outside every day. But Penn professors would be performing a great service if they incorporated a field trip or two into the typical course structure.
For some professors at Penn, the field trip has remained an important component of their style of teaching. In speaking to my fellow students, all reflected very positively on the contributions that class field trips have added to the quality of their courses. I heard about museum visits with art history seminars, plays with theater arts courses and exotic restaurants with foreign language classes.
“I tie field trips to the reading for my class,” wrote Urban Studies professor Eric Schneider in an email. “For example, I assign a book on the history of downtown, and I give the class a walking tour of Market Street from Old City to City Hall, as it encapsulates many of the themes that the students are reading about.”
Even professors who take their students to another location on campus such as the Rare Book and Manuscript Library or the University Archives can greatly benefit their undergraduates’ experience. These trips give students access to the unparalleled resources that are often underutilized by students and break up the normal routine.
Professors should keep in mind the value of field trips as they review and construct their syllabi. The promise of an enthralling field trip can sometimes be enough to pique students’ interests in the subject matter and keep them hooked on the course. Taking students to a new locale can be a pleasant change that breaks up the typically monotonous class schedule. A field trip can also positively benefit the class’s sense of community as its members travel together to a new place.
Although we are college students, it can still be enlightening to return back to the days of brown bag lunches once in a while.
Sabrina Benun is a College senior from Santa Monica, Calif. Her email address is benun@theDP.com. Last Call appears every Friday.Comments powered by Disqus
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