Here is a picture of our amazing guide, Fred. Fred literally got down on all fours - and convinced 8 of my 10 seventh and eighth graders to do the same - to demonstrate how a mammoth might get stuck in mud when searching for food. Fred covered everything from Pangaea to how fossils are formed to explaining extinction. He was animated, expressive, and at their level without treating them like little kids. Come to find out later that he was a middle school science teacher....Ohhhhhh, now I get it! Thanks Fred!! You were awesome!
We left school at 9 AM, and walked over to Amherst College, about a 20 minute walk. It was a mild day, almost 70 degrees - not at all a typical November day; the students made sure to walk through leaves whenever they could. Our guide greeted us at the closed museum. My pre-practicum teacher met us there. After emailing with me, I could tell Fred had clearly done his homework by preparing for the right grade and for a group of ELL students. They were amazed to see the tiny horse to the left - a little bigger than a large cat! One of my students filmed the entire tour, she was so excited about it. I am pretty certain she made her parents watch the whole thing over the weekend.
After our tour, we went on the look at the fossils and extinct animals to the gems. The students were amazed to see gold and diamonds, thought the diamonds were not as shiny as one student expected.
Since it was so nice out and we had lots of time, I took the class up to the Amherst College quad. They sat in the Adirondack chairs, they ran and jumped and took pictures of each other. Here is one student looking our at the mountain range - the same mountains seen in the painting in the first picture above.
After plenty of time to run around, we walked to the town of Amherst, a short 10 minute walk, and to the middle-Eastern restaurant of my student's family. Most students were not brave enough to order falafel, an unfamiliar food, but they were at least willing to taste a piece of mine. The restaurant owner gave us extra of everything. We pushed tables together, and ate a leisurely lunch while we laughed together at one student who ate about 1,000 fries. Then some of us headed next door to the ice cream shop, owned by the same family. We walked back to school, the students laughing, chasing each other, all of us content - it was Friday, school was almost over, and it had been a great day.
As far as field trips go, this one was not so difficult to plan. The museum was free; the only cost was lunch, and I covered that for one student who couldn't pay. For a few hours, my students were just regular kids, not just the ELL students. I figure that even if all of my students didn't understand everything that Fred said, and even if some of the information was over their heads, they got something out of it. They got to be in a museum, they saw the beautiful campus of Amherst College (I made sure to tell them to work hard for good grades and apply, because they give great financial aid!), their horizons were somehow broadened (for at least some of them). That is why teachers plan field trips, though it takes lots of time, lots of energy, and some anxiety. In the end, it was worth it.