Did you know that helicopters have two rotors — one main rotor and one tail rotor? And did you know that helicopters can seat anywhere between two and 60 people? Well, these seemingly random facts are now things my students can rattle off at a moment’s notice thanks to our most recent life experience trip, otherwise known as a field trip.
As the self-declared Queen of Field Trips, the school secretary and I brainstormed all kinds of adventures my class could go on for our big end-of-the-year field trip finale. We tossed around the Children’s Museum, the Science Center, a light rail trip to the public library, and a few impossible ones too like Disneyland. In the end, we decided to take advantage of the fact that my husband is in the military and has connections at the local army aviation National Guard base.
In preparation for our trip, we spent a number of weeks focusing on transportation themed learning about cars, buses, boats, trains, airplanes, and, of course, helicopters! One of the most difficult assignments, even more difficult than comparing different types of transportation, was coming up with questions to ask the helicopter pilot once we got to the base.
It’s no surprise that coming up with questions is a difficult task for a group of students with severe language delays, but this was something I know I needed to focus on as a teacher—teaching my students self-empowerment—and something my students needed to learn if the ultimate goal for every student is more self-directed, independent learning.
With much practice, they came up with a list of awesome helicopter questions that they took turns asking the pilot. Some of the best ones were: how much does a helicopter weigh? How do you make a helicopter fly sideways? And if a helicopter can fly forward, backward, sideways, up, and down, why can’t it fly upside down?
After the little interview and having to sit there and take notes, the students finally got a chance to climb all over the helicopter and even got to experience sitting in the pilot’s seat. I’ve never seen some of them so excited.
And the excitement continued into the next day during writing class, when the students were given pictures that were taken during our trip. The students had to collaborate and write a book about our helicopter adventure. Never have I seen so many smiles during writing at 8:10 a.m.!
Looking back, I’m really glad my students got to experience this once in a lifetime helicopter adventure. It’s amazing to see how authentic experiences can create such excitement for learning even if it’s just a simple trip to the local post office.
How about you? If you reflect on all the experiences your students have had this past year, which experience do you feel created the most excitement for learning?