Out of the Classroom and Into the World: Learning from Field Trips, Educating from Experience, and Unlocking the Potential of Our Students and Teachers by Salvatore Vascallero is illustrative for those of us fascinated by ways children learn.
The Preface begins with this story about how he learned to be a teacher. “We began with walks in our Manhattan neighborhood: on the school block, around the block, to the avenue filled with small stores, over to the East River, into Central Park…I noticed that the children were particularly interested in the tailor shop, the shoe repair, and the florist.” Anyone who knew MCS on 96th Street will recognize “the avenue” as Madison Avenue as it used to be between 96th and 97th Street. The visit with the tailor, Mr. Albok, introduced a 6 foot tall man who welcomed children’s questions.
Students: “Why do we need a tailor?”
Mr. Albok: “What were you wearing when you were born?”
Mr. Albok: “That is why you need a tailor.”
Students: “Do you like your job?”
Mr. Albok: “I Love my job. I want to tell you something very important. Make sure you love what you choose to do.”
Students: “Do you have children?”
Mr. Albok: (Mr Albok reached under his counter and showed us a large black-and-white photo of a young woman, his daughter.
Students: “She’s very beautiful.”
Mr. Albok: “Before you leave, I want to teach you something very important: how to sew a button. Everyone should know how to sew a button. Too many people walk around with missing buttons or buttons hanging off.”
As a professor at Bank Street, Sal takes the reader on a journey, introducing us to the philosophy of its founder Lucy Sprague Mitchell regarding the value of trips outside the classroom in general. “The long trip” is a feature that works for adults learning to be teachers. Moving beyond the school building and the book “enables,” “builds,” “uses,” “fosters” and “enlarges a learner’s circle of understanding, caring and commitment through the encountering of the realities of others; in this way are cultivated socially conscious individuals who are committed to the well-being of each other and the world out there, which is critical to a society that calls itself democratic.”
No wonder the legacy of that philosophy still plays out at MCS. Daily walks to and from Central Park. Lower School science trips to the nearby Community Garden. 4-5s Home Visits. 6-7s trips to the Post Office. 8-9s Trips to Waterloo Village. 9-10s trips to museums that expand their understanding of immigration to New York City. 5th grade trips to the United Nations. 6th grade trips to Philadelphia and walking tours of Harlem. 7th and 8th grade activism trips to City Hall, Albany, Washington D.C. and places young voices can influence change. MCS Farm trips and trips from the Farm to sustainable farms and centers of green energy-production.
Why trips? Witness the glow and the stories as a class returns from the park or shares impressions after a rally. Watch students emerge from the Farm bus after a week of lessons learned from the walks in the woods, hard work and play. Remember the time you ventured far from the classroom walls and learned something that has lasted a lifetime. It might be as simple as learning to fasten a button, but the point is the same.