Friday, October 24, 2003

Transit Museum Field Trip

I went to the New York City Transit Museum today, along with two other teachers, our school aide, one parent, and about 50 seventh-graders. The museum is in Brooklyn, and we're way up in the Bronx, so we got to experience about 2 hours of transit use (and a couple miles of walking) on our way there and back. Nothin' like the real thing!

Anyway, I highly recommend visiting this museum. It is full of neat artifacts, like old tokens, turnstiles, and working trains; a bus that you can sit in and "drive"; photographs and models showing how the el and underground train systems were built and evolved over time. I didn't get to see half of what I wanted to see, since we had a fairly slow tour. I find it so fascinating to imagine my favorite neighborhoods of New York as they must have been 100 or 150 years ago, with elevated train lines, electric trolleys, and the transit system fragmented into the BRT (Brooklyn Rapid Transit) and other independent lines. Thank goodness it was all consolidated!

The students also enjoyed the trip, and were very well behaved - we got compliments from the museum staff - though they also wanted more time in the museum. The take-home message of the trip was definitely "Do not surf the top of the train" given the recent death of a teenager who tried doing just that in Manhattan. They talked to us a lot about the third rail, which carries 600 volts and will kill you if you touch it. I think the talk made an impression, as the kids kept saying how stupid it was to climb up on the train like that.

From the point of view of a teacher, the trip was like a mini-experiment. I was only added as a chaperone a few days ago, and had no role in organizing the trip. The two seventh-grade homeroom teachers took very different approaches to preparing their students: One teacher gave each student a number and a partner to walk next to on the way to and from the subway. Her students could line up quickly, count off, and generally stayed in orderly lines throughout the trip. The other teacher did not set up any kind of system with his class, and we had much more trouble getting them organized and keeping them behaving in an orderly fashion as we walked and on the train.

Tips for Leading a Field Trip:

*Make sure you prep the students for the trip. Go over what you will be doing, what they need to bring, and your behavioral expectations.

*Give the students an assignment, the more engaging, the better. Go over what the assignment is before the trip, and build on it after the trip.

*Have a system prepared for how the students will travel, both on the way to your destination, and once you arrive. For example, will they walk in lines? Will they have "buddies" for the trip? Will they break up into groups once you get there? Which adult will take each group?

*I like to prepare a memo for the other chaperones, who usually have not participated in planning the trip, but need to be able to respond when issues arise. It helps if you give them a written schedule, directions, phone numbers, etc.

*And, obviously, preview the trip yourself a few days beforehand!

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