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Class outside the classroom

By Edwina Harder

Southgate Elementary Principal

“When will I ever need to know this?” All of us have probably heard a student utter these words. Educators of today work very hard to make learning relevant for their students. Teachers feel the pressure to make every moment with students count, tying their activities to state standards. One way that teachers attempt to help learners connect with content is through the use of field trips or special guests. Field trips help to reinforce concepts that students are learning in their many subject areas.

Southgate students have a number of trips that they enjoy. For instance, our fifth-graders were able to see their science curriculum come to life at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Fourth-graders at Southgate visit the Minnesota Historical Center in the spring. This attraction illustrates the rich history of our state and allows them to interact with exhibits. One attraction even allows students to experience what it would be like to be in a tornado. Austin’s fourth- and fifth-graders visit Riverland as a culmination of their “Get Ready” unit. This helps students to begin considering their options after high school.

All of Austin’s third-graders enjoy their “Day on a Farm” trip sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. On this trip they learn about life on a farm. Second-graders experience a play at the Paramount, which exposes them to the arts in our community. They enjoy seeing great stories come to life. Our first-graders enjoy time at Oxbow Park. This trip reinforces our appreciation of animals and the environment.

All these different field trips help students to appreciate the community as well. Many children have never been in the Paramount Theatre or seen a working farm. For our students to experience these things, right in our area, helps them to see the variety of different people with different talents that make up our community. It exposes them to different options that they may be interested in pursuing in their post-high school choices.

Guest speakers bring learning alive for our students as well. Firefighters and police officers reinforce the idea of community and safety with our children. Numerous adults come in to speak about their careers, helping students think about their futures. Another community member who works with us is the owner of a “helping dog.” She shares her dog and her story with our students, helping them to see what a love of animals could lead to.

I have simply touched the surface of the many and varied field trips and speakers that students in our school system enjoy. These experiences bring learning alive and make lasting impressions on our students. We appreciate all of the businesses that welcome us in for field trips and the people who are willing to share their talents with us. All of these experiences help make learning meaningful for our students.