Field trips are exciting. Some of my fondest memories as a student involved getting on a yellow school bus and heading out for the day. Years later, as a teacher, I understand and appreciate the merit that extra-curricular educational activities hold. I firmly support the idea that not all learning occurs within a classroom, continuously encouraging my students to get out there and experience life.
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be a chaperone on a Grade 8 field to trip to the Musée des Abénakis located along the St. Francois River near the town of Sorel, just over an hour northeast of Montreal.
The museum itself is situated on the site where the original Fort Odanak once stood in the mid 18th century on the Abenakis reserve. Today there is absolutely no trace of the structure which once stood as the economic and cultural center of the Abenakis community. The museum is surrounded by forest, a Jesuit church dating back the 1780s, and a gathering area where annual Powwows are held.
For many of the 13 & 14 year-olds on the field trip, it would be their first ever Canadian aboriginal experience. Moreover, most of the students on the excursion had never ventured outside of Montreal, making this an outing of significant importance, exposing them to an environment and culture completely foreign to them. Social science education, particularly History, is difficult for many students to grasp because of the physical separation from events that took place centuries ago. To help close the gap, visits to national heritage sites such as the Musée des Abénakis serve a really important purpose by allowing young people to connect with our country’s past.
The activities and experiences we exposed the students to are important too. Our visit included a round table discussion about what it means to be an aboriginal in Canada, visiting various exhibits to learn about the Abenakis way of life, and participating in archaeological exercises that made students classify objects hundreds of years old accorsing to their materials and uses.
All in all, the day was a success. Students were introduced to Canadian aboriginal history and culture, and their sensitivity towards this important demographic in our country and the role they played in the evolution of Canada as a nation was addressed as well The students may not have always appreciated the artifacts and information they were being exposed to, but that’s to be acceptaed from a small percentage of participants on any outing. The majority of the children were engaged, well-behaved, and genuinely interested. The need to provide opportunities for students from urban areas to participate in such activities remains academically crucial. If society is to continue to evolve, it’s paramount that our children be given every chance to interact with new people, customs and cultures.
From China to New York City to Europe, teaching has given me the opportunity to travel around the world. Evry opportunity allows me to share my experiences and worldly knowledge with young people. Sometimes, that kind of learning is more precious and valuable than many classroom activities. Today’s workd is much smaller than it was a generation ago and students should seize every chance they get to learn outside of school.
‘Til the next post.