'Think Outside' the Class

By McCoy, Lydia X | News Sentinel, May 31, 2015 | Go to article overview

'Think Outside' the Class


McCoy, Lydia X, News Sentinel


For some Knox County fourth-graders, the Smokies Health and Safety Day was one of several field trips they took this school year.

For others, it may have been the only one.

The annual trip focused on education supporting health decisions and drug-free lifestyles. Students got to enjoy a baseball game, which brought together about 5,500 kids from 41 elementary schools.

"A lot of kids at our school don't get to experience things like this," said Felicia Fowler, a fourth-grade teacher at West Haven Elementary, while some of her students participated in a game on the field.

"So I think it's a really good experience for them to just be out in the crowds and seeing these things."

Fowler said the trip was only the second her students had been on this school year. The other was a trip to the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

"Our kids definitely don't experience things like that," she said. "It was a lot of fun, and they like the fact that they got to dress up a little bit to go. They really enjoyed it."

Fowler said her hope is that the field trips her students went on this year gave them a "sense of community and the things they can do to enrich their lives beyond school. It makes them think outside of the bubble."

OVERALL REQUESTS

According to a News Sentinel analysis, the overall number of field trips requested by teachers -- whether it's for a sports event, competition or tied to a lesson in the classroom -- slightly increased from 2012 to 2015.

But from the 2013-14 school year to the 2014-15 school year, the overall number of trips requested decreased.

A review of the school system's database of field trip requests for the past four years found that while high schools are taking the most collective trips out of school buildings, elementary schools are taking the most specifically focused on educational standards.

See field trips, 5B

The analysis divided the trips into six categories: sports, competitions, performances, educational, reward and other.

For the 2014-15 school year, a collective of 1,549 trips were requested, a slight decrease from the previous school year when there were 1,718 requests.

Schools with the overall highest number of trips for the 2014-15 school year were Farragut and Bearden high schools and Hardin Valley Academy.

Farragut had 116 field trips requested, with nearly 75 percent a sporting trip or a competition.

At the elementary level, Beaumont Magnet Academy had the highest number of requests at 51, with all but four tied to an educational lesson. The school is unique, however, as it is also the only elementary school that has incorporated field trips into its curriculum.

Following Beaumont is Brickey-McCloud, A.L. Lotts and Cedar Bluff elementary schools, which all saw a majority of their trips tied to a lesson in the classroom.

'ALL HAVE THAT LATITUDE'

There is no mandate on the number of field trips a school or class must take, but teachers are encouraged to take their classes on field trips in the fall and another in the spring, said Susan Turner, the school system's executive director of elementary education.

Turner said the district wants the trips to be "meaningful."

According to the newspaper's analysis, students are taking a range of trips from visits to the Ijams Nature Center and the Knoxville Zoo to the University of Tennessee to sit in on lectures. Several schools have traveled out of the state with visits to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., and the Aquariums in Chattanooga and Atlanta.

All those trips, officials said, come from the creativity of teachers.

Clifford Davis, the school system's executive director of secondary education, said the classroom teacher and principal choose which activities they want for the students.

"You're drilling to a teacher and his or her style or preferences in terms of the way they want to expose their kids to hands-on type activities or exposure. …

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