On September 13, 2011 the Junior Class of John F. Kennedy High School went on a tour of various locations around our local area as a supplement to their literature class.
The 51 Students, accompanied by two teachers and a bus driver, were trying to experience what it was like to be an explorer as they read selections of "Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles," by John Smith, selections written by the Spanish explorer, Cabeza de Vaca, and Christopher Columbus's "Letter to Ferdinand and Isabella".
They traveled from the courthouse in downtown Warren to the McKinley Museum in Niles, and then on to St. Columba's Cathedral in Youngstown, the Riverside Gardens at Mill Creek Park, Lanterman's Mill, and the Butler Art Institute. In addition to being an adventure as "explorers", the trip was intended to show students the good things about their area, since so many only focus on the bad.
It was an unusual teaching method that seemed to get through to the students. The next week, when reading their essays about the experience, many recounted the beauties of Mill Creek Park and interesting things they learned during the trip. Getting out of the classroom allowed students to connect with their literature, more so than simply reading it could have done.
Mrs. Tracey Ryser, the American Literature teacher who coordinated the trip, often uses unusual means to keep the class interesting, even when reading stories written hundreds of years ago. Following the field trip, Mrs. Ryser also had the students watch several clips from the blockbuster, "Avatar," to connect the lives of the characters to the story of John Smith.
"I thought our class became closer as a result of going on the field trip and experiencing all of the same things," said Danielle Covelli when asked what the best part of the trip was.
No doubt, expanding education beyond the classroom has many benefits.