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Students enjoy field trips without leaving home
Every Thursday, the Grade 5/6 class at Redwood Acres Public School goes on a field trip. Although they don’t leave home, they travel far and wide, meeting new people and exploring new topics.
Teacher Todd Brown introduced the virtual excursions as a fun way to engage students in hands-on learning. Guest speakers log on to their computers and link up with the class. The students research the subject matter in advance and get ready to ask questions.
“My students haven’t had a field trip in a while,” says Brown. “It dawned on me that although I couldn’t physically take them somewhere, I could certainly bring someone to them.”
That’s how Thursdays became extra special. And as the concept grew, other days too!
The first guest speaker was nuclear submariner and engineer Richard Murphy who discussed his job in the U.S. Navy during a unit on electricity. The students were captivated by Murphy’s highly classified job.
Since then, the class has met politicians, pilots, clowns, doctors, athletes and authors.
This includes MPP Kathleen Wynne who became the first female Premier of Ontario, Director of Circus World Scott O’Donnell who made his dreams of becoming a circus performer a reality, Pilot Joe Devito who flies with Jet Blue, and epidemiologist Dr. Raywat Deonandan who is a popular COVID-19 commentator on CTV.
With so many impactful people, it’s hard for the class to pick a favourite. Some of the guests have been back a second time and have developed a great rapport with the students.
One of the most recent guests to return was Tracy Schmitt, aka Unstoppable Tracy, a Canadian Paralympic athlete and motivational speaker. Unstoppable Tracy delivered a powerful message about inclusiveness. The students responded with thoughtful and respectful questions.
Another popular guest has been award-winning children’s author Andrew Larsen who has connected with the class six times so far. He took the students on a step-by-step journey of the writing process, from the idea, to the plot, to the characters, to the drafts, to the manuscript, to the published book. Students got a behind the scenes look at how the children’s book “Dingus” came to life.
Brown says the sessions have not only been meaningful for their authentic connections to the curriculum and current events, they have also taught his students valuable social skills, including how to introduce themselves, speak to adults, ask questions politely, and thank the guests for their answers. Students also developed critical thinking skills as they engaged with professionals on relevant topics.
“The response from students has been very positive,” says Brown. “Students look forward to their weekly interactions. Now the students like to guess who the next guest will be.”
Equally as impressed are the guest speakers themselves.
“The feedback from guests has been wonderful. I’ve been told that my class is so well behaved, so respectful, and they ask genuine questions. That has been very encouraging to hear,” says Brown.
Brown thanks the many guests who have joined his class virtually, noting that they have been very generous with their time and their knowledge. “All of the speakers understood that this is a very unique time for students as they continue to learn during a global pandemic,” he says.
He adds: “They were all willing to join us online. They did it out of the kindness of their hearts and my students benefited immensely. I am truly grateful.”
Nicole Charette, Senior Advisor
Corporate Communications and Strategic Planning
Rainbow District School Board, 705-674-3171 ext. 7217