Of all the crazy things I did as a classroom teacher, the end-of-year adventure field trip definitely ranks in one of the top 5 best ideas ever.
First came the car trip in the extra-long International Travelall. I still remember the look at the gas station when the attendant thought the dozen or so kids I had with me might all be my children instead of my class. We spent a good part of the long drive singing. Since I ended almost every class day with singing, by the end of the year we knew dozens of songs.
If you don’t live there, you might think that the desert around Phoenix is boring, but Arizona abounds with places to explore. Chief among them is the Peppersauce Canyon caves. DO NOT TRY THIS unless you have multiple extremely capable, experienced guides (thank you, Pastor Conner and sons!) and an amazing class that is willing to listen and obey in life or death situations.
One year we explored after heavy rains. At the Rabbit Hole, we had to position a guide on the far side to help pull students (and teachers) through the incredibly small opening that was half filled with mud. We explored the caverns. We discovered various colors of water in the underground lakes with their albino fish and nearby albino crickets. We felt the weight of darkness when we turned off every single light. We bonded as we got head-to-toe caked with mud.
Another year we camped out overnight after visiting the San Xavier mission. The next day we traveled down to Nogales to walk across the border to visit Mexico. This was back in the day when we could do that without passports or fear.
Why did I haul kids on never-to-be-forgotten trips? One reason is that my parents did this with my sisters and me. We had a shorter International Travelall when I was little. Later we had a Pontiac station wagon and a 27-foot travel trailer. There’s nothing quite like experiencing the mosquitoes of the everglade first hand, then a few weeks later driving through Washington DC and Boston to take in the sights. One year we missed the first few weeks of school to stop by Niagara Falls on the way home to California from Maine. No doubt—Niagara Falls was much more memorable!
Why do I rank our class trips as one of my top 5 best ideas?
1. Adventure travel made skill training in behavior easier because we were working towards a big goal. They had to learn to obey without question or delay in part because we were going into situations that would be dangerous.
2. Adventure travel gave us a shared bond that continues to unite us all these decades later. We discovered that one of the best ways to develop unity is to actually pull together to do challenging things.
3. Adventure travel got up-close-and-personal with God’s creation. Perhaps our class trips encouraged my students to leave the beaten path for the amazing discoveries God has for those who are willing to explore.
I’m convinced that taking others on never-to-be-forgotten trips can lead to transformational learning. What I want you to do—no matter if you teach homeschool, traditional school, or Sunday school—is take those you work with on an adventure. All the time, planning, and effort may seem like a distraction from the work of learning, but the result of choosing a path of experience can produce life transformation far beyond what worksheets and classroom walls can ever dream of.