Monday, February 28, 2011

Virginia Living Museum.... Again.

I found out a few weeks ago that the field trip schedule for Newport News Public Schools has not changed in 15+ years. Considering the curriculum and standards are revised EVERY year, this proves to be a problem. Since we live in the birthplace of America, and study Virginia History in 4th grade, you'd think field trips would be easy to come by... and they should be. This year, the teachers were finally asked to provide input on our current field trips and provide ideas of where we would like to take future field trips. The 4th grade team at my school alone was able to come up with a very extensive list of suggestions. Unfortunately, since it seems everything always comes down to finances, I am not sure how many of these we will get, but hopefully at least a couple! Until that time, we are stuck going places that do not cause a financial burden, such as the Virginia Living Museum (VLM).
Now, let me just say, I LOVE the VLM. It has exceptional displays, wonderful information, hands-on everything and a beautiful trail for walking and looking at some native Virginia animals. It is a wonderful place to visit with kids... one or two of them, that is... definitely not 23.
Since the VLM is located in Newport News, they have built a partnership with the school system over the years. As a result, a set number of classes are granted the opportunity to take a field trip there every year without costing the school district an arm and a leg. Now, this sounds terrific, and ideally it is. In reality, though, there are quite a few issues that make it less than ideal.
First of all, there are 180 days in a school year. This is plenty of time to squeeze in a field trip for every class at every school... so they do. Meaning, by the time the kids reach me in 4th grade, they have been to the VLM a minimum of 4 times. (Unless they are from out of state, which would take their minimum down to 2-3 because, the VLM is one of the few "kid attractions" in Newport News, so most families hit that within the first few months of living here.) I don't know about you, but walking through a man-made bat cave and seeing a few wolves run around their fenced in area loses its appeal after a few years. I actually had a girl bring me a parent note last year saying that she would rather sit at school and do a book report than go on the field trip!
Another problem I have with this trip is that it is WAY too long. We got there at 9:30 and didn't leave until 1. Now, I mentioned that there were a lot of cool exhibits. BUT, when you have 23 hyperactive kids, standing around reading information about fossils in a confined area doesn't usually end well. Thankfully, this year I was more experienced and knew about the extended time period, so paced myself accordingly. My students went to the "All About Plants" class first, then we quickly went through the indoor exhibits, and finally I took them on the outside walking tour where they could be as noisy as they wanted... for the most part. It worked out okay, but overall, I would be perfectly fine with them cutting an hour or two off the trip!
Thirdly, the content. The aforementioned class was about plants. In 4th grade, we don't study plants until late May. So, not only will my kids have already forgotten everything the lady tried to squeeze into an hour, but they could care less about germination! Their favorite part of the Plants Class was getting a chance to touch a de-scented skunk (which was clearly only thrown in to make the kids think that the class was actually entertaining!!). Also, it will not help them in any way on their Reading, Math, or Social Studies SOL tests. (They take Science in 5th grade, by which time I KNOW they will not remember her rushed speech!!)

All that to say, I did have a good day. I enjoy being able to just hang out with my kids and see them get excited about little things like looking through a telescope at a duck. On this trip, my quietest student decided it was finally his time to bloom and started talking up a storm! He was naming every animal we passed. I believe "Foxy" and "Wolfy" were two of his favorites... you know, real creative stuff like that. (**Note: Ever since this field trip, he has officially lost his title as quietest student in the class and has totally blossomed! He's still respectful and sweet, though! His comments are always so funny and out of nowhere!**)

With the Virginia Living Museum, we officially completed our field trips for this school year. Hopefully next year we'll switch things up and possibly visit the War Museum or the Mariner's Museum? Who knows! Stay tuned... :)

As usual, Mrs. Bozung and I are busy taking pictures or talking  to each other and paying no mind to our students. :)

Checkin' out the "Swamp" Exhibit.

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