We took our first graders on a field trip to the Smithsonian's Museum of American History today (and yesterday - we split into two groups). I was excited about this trip because it meant we got the kids into D.C. Our kids live fewer than 15 miles outside of the city, but many have never been there. Just the chance to drive up past the Pentagon, over the Potomac River and past the monuments is worth the trip to me.
I visited the museum last weekend, briefly, to lay out a basic plan. It focused on understanding past and present, one of our first grade social studies objectives.
There are probably a lot of things we could have done differently/better for this trip, but I'm happy with how it went. I created pages with photos I took at the museum and questions to prompt the kids' thinking. My kids started off using these pages a lot but as we went on they were more interested in talking to each other and the teachers about what they were seeing. That was fine with me. The papers were designed to be there if they wanted them or to be ignored if they didn't.
The other thing I did was take four cameras with us, two digital and two flip (R.I.P.). I have them on lanyards so the kids can wear them around their necks and I don't have to worry (as much) about them being dropped. Today I handed the cameras to four students with the direction to take a few pictures or some video and then pass them on. I feel pretty confident everyone had time with at least one camera during our visit. I haven't watched the videos carefully yet but will be posting some of their work soon.
We took an escalator up one level and I was surprised to find that some of my students were really uncertain about it. I don't know if they had ever been on one before. I found myself running down the up escalator several times to give a hand to students who were unwilling/unable to step on the escalator. We did all make it up though!
After almost two hours in the museum and visiting four exhibits, we headed out onto The Mall for a picnic lunch. We were lucky to have a fabulous day. After lunch I set my kids up to play Duck, Duck, Goose while waiting for the bus. They loved it, much more than I expected. Soon, kids from other classes were joining them. We ended up with nearly 40 kids playing before I pulled my class out for a quick picture in front of the Washington Monument.
The only sad part of this experience for me is that tomorrow is the last day before spring break and I'm out for a root canal. We won't be able to really process this wonderful field trip until more than a week after it happened.