Field trips are back, and students love them!

  • FB07C775-DE19-4175-B7C9-F0439B2717AA
    The LGBTQ Literature classes at Orlando, at UMass.
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    Students on a field trip to play music for Amherst elementary students.

One thing that was greatly reduced during pandemic schooling was field trips for students. However, now that ARHS is entering the second year of in-person learning, many teachers across the building are bringing their students out into the community to enhance their curriculum.

Brittni Upchurch’s Unified PE class allows students with and without disabilities to come together through educational and physical activities. She said her class also “builds friendships and allows students an opportunity to be themselves.” Upchurch brought this class of 25 students to Mike’s Maze in Sunderland, with 10-12 adults there for support. 

Both teachers and students enjoy it. “We had great reviews across the board from students and staff alike,” said Upchurch. The field trip was important to students because it “offered students [the opportunity to] connect class content and curriculum to the real world,” said Upchurch. 

Music teachers Todd Fruth and Yasu Suzuki have embarked on and are planning future field trips. 

Suzuki, who is the high school Orchestra Director and teaches both high school and middle school music electives brought four students to play their instruments at all four elementary schools in Amherst, to inspire young students in the district with performing arts. “It’s always enjoyable to spread the joy of music,” said Suzuki.

He noted that field trips like this one are “community outreach,” too. “It’s good to show everyone in the district across the schools, from elementary to HS, that we have a strong performing arts program,” said Suzuki. 

Fruth, meanwhile, along with colleagues Suzuki and Kara Nye, is planning a larger overnight field trip, for about 90 people at the end of the school year to Cleveland, with all band, choir, and orchestra students. 

They will explore the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Museum of Art, work with “fantastic clinicians at Case Western Reserve University,” will perform at a music festival, will watch amazing theatrical performances, and will hang out at Cedar Point, one of the best amusement parks in the country. 

The main goal of this trip to Cleveland is “to let students learn more and experience music in a variety of capacities. It’s a fun way to get together and do things that are music related,” said Fruth, “and to connect with people and communities outside of the ARHS bubble.”

English department head Sara Barber-Just also organized field trips for both of her quarter one classes, Disability Justice Literature and LGBTQ Literature.

The Disability Justice Literature class went on two nature field trips hiking and walking with students in the Pathways to Independence program on Friday mornings for an hour.  They headed to both Amethyst Brook and Mount Warner. 

Each time around 10 students went on the trip with the PIP program, along with teacher Chris Kusek and program paras, while Barber-Just stayed with other students in class. The goal of these trips was to take time to relax, be close to nature, and build friendships among students who don’t always cross paths in school.

The next field trip that Barber-Just organized was with her LGBTQ Literature class and fellow English teacher Amanda Lewis’s LGBTQ Literature class to see the play “Orlando” at UMass, hosted by its theater dept. This trip contained around 40 eleventh graders and a few adults. 

The group watched the novel-to-play-adaptation which is about a gender-bending English noble. The play was linked to “themes of gender identity and queer joy” in the LGBTQ class curriculum. 

Barber-Just enjoyed the play. “It was so fun to see a fabulous theater production,” said Barber-Just. After watching the play, the group ate lunch at the UMass dining hall on campus.

Barber-Just mentioned that the field trip was a very good experience for all. “It was inspiring and joyful,” said Barber-Just. “Theater is also a great way to add a whole additional text to the class curriculum in just one day!”

Field trips to theater performances are also a way “to get away from electronics,” she said. 

“I think it’s nice for students to close their Chromebooks, shut off their phones, and step out of their classes and routines behind and be immersed in live theater,” said Barber-Just. 

Students reported a number of benefits from attending these field trips.

Senior Taylor Hanson, a student from the Disability Justice Literature class said the nature field trip was great. “It was fun to get to know students in the PIP program, and it was a nice break from the weekly routine of school,” said Hanson. “I also liked being in nature. I felt it formed a stronger bond between our class and the PIP students since we were in the woods.”

Hanson said the trip made him wish he “got to spend more time with” students in the program.

Juniors Nathan Ekstein and Forrest Carvahlo from LGBTQ Lit went on the theater trip. They enjoyed the day a lot. “The play was fun and the food was good,” said Ekstein, “but the dining hall was crowded and it was hard to find a seat!”

Ekstein thinks field trips are important because they give students something to look forward to in class. “It was a nice break from normal school,” said Ekstein. 

Carvahlo agreed. “Field trips give students a unique experience out of the classroom,” they said.