Wildwood Park: The Autumn Edition

We made it today. And what a day it was! Huzzah!

Our scheduled October 12 field trip to Wildwood Park was initially postponed a week because we struggled with appropriate in-class behavior and we were slow to follow directions, but our practice paid off because we had, frankly, a flawless trip this afternoon!

The weather was wonderful, and students worked hard to accomplish everything we needed to in the morning to ensure we could set out for the park on time. A field trip to Wildwood Park is really more of a “field trip” with air quotes because it’s RIGHT next door to our school. But the fact that it’s off campus and requires OFFICIAL field trip paperwork gives it an air of greater importance.

The science gave it an air of greater importance too. Students trekked to the park armed with their clipboards, pencils (there was NO pencil drama — everyone was responsible and made a plan in case their pencils broke/got lost/were stolen by a squirrel), and super-neat FIELD GUIDES.

Clipboards and Field Guides

Once there, students had the option of exploring independently, or perambulating with me in a leisurely manner to ensure they didn’t miss any of the sights. They mapped out deciduous trees, evergreen trees, and ferns. As I’m typing this, I am JUST NOW reminded of The Definitive Central Park Map. I TOTALLY wish I would have thought of that this morning to show students before we left.

Recording observations (including neat orange lichen!)

No matter. We had a blast. I was thoroughly impressed at my students’ ability to let go and have a great time, yet still take care of the Official Science Business they needed to attend to. The sketched and described trees, moss, and ferns, and they were careful to stay in my line of sight (no chaperones today, sadly).

Thermometers read a balmy 56 degrees Fahrenheit!

After Official Science Business was attended to, we used the remaining time to play on the Wildwood Park Big Toy. As someone whose elementary school park boasted a strictly wood-and-bolts play structure, the crazy spider-y rope climbing portion and the see-saw swing things kind of blew my mind.

Then, it was time to head back to school. The entire trip, including the walk to and from the park (which, granted, was right next door), including the “tour” and time to fill out Field Guides, including the play time on the Big Toy, was less than one hour. Students declared the trip a success, and I’d agree.

One of our PTA parents (who doesn’t have a student in my class) asked why more teachers don’t plan trips like I did. Here’s an expanded look at the answer I gave her.

The first reason, the one I imagine is most pressing to our teachers, is because most classrooms at our school have greater than half their class reading a year or two (or more) behind grade level, so it can be difficult to get field trips approved. You’ll notice I was careful to say “it can be difficult,” not “you can’t do it,” because I believe that if your field trip doesn’t align to more than one core subject area, frankly, you’re not planning the trip to maximize its learning potential.

The second reason is that paperwork’s a pain. It’s decidedly less painful to me because I’ve filled out many field trip forms in the past few years (every math team contest counts as a field trip, which means 5-6 permission slips during the competition season), so I can fill out the paperwork pretty quickly. But in addition to filing everything properly, the teacher then needs to collect permission slips, which often aren’t returned. Even on a free field trip somewhere nearby, teachers need chaperones. If we were going anywhere other than next door, I would have needed at least two people to step up and join us. We have a trip to the UW planned for Thursday, and I’m not quite sure what we’ll do because I only have one available parent with Washington Patrol approval.

Speaking of which, want to join us at the UW Department of Atmospheric Sciences on Thursday??? You’d be home by noon. CONTACT ME, because we’d love to have you there. I’ve been listening to Cliff Mass’ KPLU podcasts lately to improve my weather knowledge.

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