By Jackie Chen
During the weekend, on September 7 and 8, science teachers Matthew Fields and David Mangiante took eight students on a camping trip at the Bicentennial Campground in Marin County, above San Francisco. Fields set this trip up himself, and he has three other camping trips planned throughout the school year, with similar sized groups of ESA students. There will be one more trip this semester, to Pinnacles National Park in October, and the two trips in the next semester will be to Lake Tahoe in April, and to Yosemite National Park in May.
Small trips like these bring up some questions. Why do only a few people get to have an experience like this? Why isn’t there a large trip to the outdoors backed by the school or district? In my opinion, there definitely should be. Some people might have some concerns with this. Is this type of activity safe? Does it end up distracting the students from potential work they could be doing otherwise? Does it even benefit the students?
Let’s go over these questions.
One problem with trying to back larger trips like these is funding. According to Fields, the trip over the weekend for eight students already cost him around $200. This high price is very off-putting to some, and especially the school district, who might see it as being not worth it.
Additionally, there is a possibility of a student getting hurt on the trip. Of course, students fill out permission slips, but there’s still a chance that, even with everyone being properly prepared, something will go wrong. The school will try their best to avoid this type of scenario because they’ll be liable if a student gets injured on a trip they funded.
On top of that, these trips might just cut time off from students being able to do their work. If the trip’s on a weekday, it removes the ability for people to go to class. On a weekend, it prevents everyone from doing any leftover work or homework they have at that time.
However, I believe that there are many reasons why we should have large-scale trips.
A benefit of trips like these is that they can increase the morale of the students as a whole. Imagine trying to focus on classwork when you get little to no break in between days. Instead, the occasional break from school to go outside can help students relax and adjust their mentality for the better. Instead of constantly stressing about work, students get a sense of hope that the situation for them is improving.
Another benefit is that outdoor trips are also a way for students to be out in nature more often. Today, you don’t get to see much of nature when you live in a city. You see the same buildings, the same structures, and the same colors. School specifically is also very mundane, with the same classes each week, the same teachers, and the same people. Being out in nature is a figurative and literal breath of fresh air. It’s a break from the monotone colors of being in a city, and an introduction to what’s outside the community.
There can also be a learning experience attached to it. During a trip, students can learn about the type of wildlife in that location. In a way, trips can just be an extended time out of your normal classes, to an interactive learning experience being out in nature.
Overall, I definitely believe that Oakland High should be able to provide trips for a sizable amount of students, maybe even a whole academy or grade at a time. I want to see students advocate for trips like these, and push it to the limit. Ask your academy teachers to see if your academy can set up trips similar to what Fields has planned for some of his ESA students this year. Speak up now so that you won’t be left in the dust later while a small number of students get to reap the benefits.