A Day at the Museum

I have a hard time explaining the nerves that I had the night before our recent field trip to the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. It is by far the largest trip that I've taken with a group of students. And I organized it! What if everything falls apart?! I've been somewhat of an athlete since I have memory. I've played in my share of moderately important sporting events - well, at least they were moderately important to me. In the whole scheme of things, I suppose that none of them were particularly important. The last few sentences are either the most mature words I've ever put onto paper* or the saddest. Possibly a bit of both. Either way, I know something about pre-game nerves.

*I'm not sure this cliche translates to the computer. I wonder what other phrases don't translate due to some innovation. Fascinating. Welcome to my mind...
Students above the poppy field, waiting
to enter the museum

The night before we left, I was going over everything to make sure I had all my details ready to go much like I've practiced in the days leading up to a big game. The groups were split. Instructions had been emailed to all of the chaperones. The introductory powerpoint was ready to roll. The Flickr account was set up. The logistics were all solid. The plan was, as far as I could tell, in pretty good shape. I was talking to my wife Angela about everything and I realized that I was nervous. I knew that my principle, Beth Heide, had some nerves. This trip was, I would learn, be the first class trip (nearly all 9th graders in this case) in over 5 years!

Our group consisted of around 160 students, all in a Modern World History class at Center taught by myself or my colleague, Steve Parker. We received a wonderful grant from the National World War Museum at Liberty Memorial that made this trip affordable*. If you live in the Kansas City area, go visit. It's a fantastic museum.

*I'm finding that there is money for cool stuff like this everywhere if you look hard enough. Programs like this and the "We The People" competition funded by the Missouri Bar Association really are great things for educators to look for. Plus, you get to meet some great people who are passionate about providing opportunities for learning outside the classroom.

High school boy + big gun = happiness
We used a program called Flickr for the day's assignment. Flickr is a photo-sharing site that is a bit more organized than Instagram or Twitter. The fact that it has more organization, though, also makes it
a bit more difficult to access. Whereas students can get on Twitter and immediately start posting pictures with hashtags as an organizational tool, Flickr allowed us to create a group specifically for the field trip where students and teachers could upload photos that they took. In the coming weeks, we can go back to the pictures in class and categorize the photos in several different ways.

There were a few hiccups that occurred with Flickr and some other logistical things that are worth discussing.  I would love your thoughts on how we solved some of these issues.

- Splitting groups gave me a splitting headache! We had six groups and a color for each group. My plan was to have colored pieces of paper and give them to all of the students the morning of the trip. This quickly devolved into chaos and was not going well. The wonderful Donna Vennera, our schools solve-everything-er, printed out colored name tags. The name tags were passed out when each group headed to the bus. This alleviated a lot of the issues we had with my original plan.

- Flickr requires students to have a Yahoo account. This is a free account, but its another step and a relatively large one at that. This generation of students, though, is not intimidated by creating new accounts. I think that this issue could have been solved by having students create accounts prior to the trip. We'll try to do this after the trip this year.

- The group we created in Flickr ended up being difficult to find on cell phones. Through the help of my fantastic colleagues, I was able to play with the administrative settings until we got them right. You can view the group here. Students will be adding more pictures over the next week or so as we go over the trip in class.

- Uploading to Flickr takes data and time, two things that are often not available during field trips. If you go to our group, you'll notice that there are only 4 members in the group at the moment. I'm hoping to pick up student members and photos in class over the next week. Mr. Parker and I are both planning on giving some class time for this. A lot of students took photos but did not join the Flickr group and upload photos. I'm interested to see what their reasons for this were and if we can successfully compile their photos in the coming weeks. I'll keep you updated on this.

Cherie Kelly, Learning Coordinator at
the WWI Museum, introducing the
museum to the students
- At the beginning of our tour, the guide for my group saw the students pull out there phones. He made a pretty great joke about him being a boring tour guide and asked the students to please keep their phones away during the tour. The students looked confused! I jumped in and told the guide that the students needed to use their phones for their assignment and we all went on with the tour just fine. It was an interesting example of the mindset behind technology in the classroom.

The trip was, by every measure, a fantastic success. We took nearly 160 9th graders to a history museum and did not have a single discipline issue all day long. "Proud" does not really articulate how I feel about my kids after this trip. I hope that this is the first of many class field trips and other smaller field trips that I am able to take with my kiddos in the future. If current success breeds future opportunity, then we took a great first step this week. The next week or two will be the next step in the challenge. Can we keep the excitement from the trip rolling into the classroom? Can we make Flickr something that is collaborative and helps learning? Can we foster curiosity for learning through this particular trip and this particular topic?

A group of students listening to Charlie, one of
our fantastic tour guides at the WWI Museum
We'll see! Check back later for more updates on activities that we tried after the trip!


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