I attended a field trip with one of my kids recently. The field trip was to the local planetarium located on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. When the man running the planetarium show pointed out things in the night sky he got the commensurate ooh’s and aah’s out of the first graders. When we exited I asked the teachers what was next, and they informed me that next on the schedule was a bathroom break, then lunch, then walking the campus to give the kids a taste of what it’s like on a University. Sounded reasonable to me.
After an extended bathroom break with me having to intervene in the men’s room to remind one child that a urinal is not a jungle gym – these were first graders so I guess I should have expected some urinal climbing – we had the kids line up to walk to lunch. I should have gotten my first hint that something wasn’t right while they were standing in line waiting for the late comers to exit the bathroom. The kids were all standing in front of a display that was all about the effort to get us to the moon including some really neat photos and some shots of the Apollo rockets. The teachers said nothing other than try to keep the kids in line. To keep them from screwing around more… I started telling the kids about the rockets. They were enthralled and it kept them busy, they started asking me questions about how big the rockets were and how little the people were in the models.
This is the display the kids were in front of after the bathroom break.
Finally when the bathroom goers had all finished up we headed outside and sat under an overhang and ate lunch. Again a slow process. Finally we got down to the big end.. the walk around campus where the kids Except, it wasn’t a big end.. it was a dead end.
The teachers had nothing planned. They didn’t talk about anything, they just planned to march the kids around. They didn’t ask the kids questions, they didn’t have any locations selected to walk the kids by in advance.. they were basically wasting time in the worst way possible. After a couple of minutes, to keep the kids busy – and with the encouragement of the teacher – I started telling them about the things they were walking by.
I showed them a dorm, “if you come to school here, this is the building you’ll live in because people come to study here from all over the world and it’s too far to go home”
I showed them a student paper and said “This is the school newspaper, if you want you can come to school here and learn to be a reporter and write about anything you want”
I read the inscriptions about the statues and told them about the things the statues were supposed to commemorate.
When the kids asked about a brand new mustang in the parking lot I told them “if you go to a university, you can learn about engineering so you can learn to make mustangs”
When we got done with the courtyard I took them by the big sundial display and had the kids run around the display and then have them freeze.. and walked around and told them what time they froze at. They loved that game, and after doing this for fifteen minutes it was time for them to go, my son wanted to go home with me, not back to school.
I’m not sure if it’s the exhaustion created by trying to corral a bunch of 1st graders or just general lack of planning but the teachers were definitely unprepared to maximize the learning potential of the trip.
First graders love to play and use their imagination.. the school system wasn’t prepared to provide these types of activities on this field trip.
I reaffirmed my desire to be stable enough in my career with a high enough income for my wife to be a SAHM and homeschool the kids for more focus on their learning but only part time so they still get the social experience of traditional school.
I was conflicted about the whole event, or at least the part where they focused on walking around the campus. I didn’t want to waste the kids time or the opportunity to learn about something but I was hesitant to really promote the whole idea of a four year college to kids as young as these. The traditional four year university is the breeding ground for many of the issues of the Professional Individual Contributor. I came to the conclusion that although we need less 4 year degrees, the idea of exposing the kids to this environment as an option was a good thing but only if the other career options are also encouraged (which I tried to do throughout my talk). I’m not sure if they plan to take the kids to a advanced manufacturing facility, or a hospital, or a human service organization, but those need to be pushed as much, if not more than the 4 year degree.
I do know one thing.. if you continually expose the kids to the university option without options or any form of context, then there is much more of a probability that the false promise of the benefits of a 4 year degree will continue to perpetuate. You add this to our systematic promotion and enablement of the of the degree and is it any wonder that we have a generation struggling with low income, low job prospects, and high student debt?
It’s a shame there is no field trip that can expose the kids to that.