Where should students go?

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Students hopping on school buses to visit museums and zoos have a long history in the United States and around the world. The students like them because - well, who doesn't like a road trip. And students take them seriously.

The Jerusalem Post reported Jan. 14, that nearly a half-million Israeli high school students declared a three-day strike when the Association of Secondary School teachers canceled all field trips. The teachers' group wanted to pressure the education ministry to protect them from liability for student injuries on school-sanctioned trips.

After one day, the teachers and the education ministry came to an agreement, and field trips are back.

In the Arlington Diocese, the beloved tradition of the educational field trip is alive and well, but the destination is not always museums and zoos.

There is a mixture of religious and secular trips.

At St. Bernadette School in Springfield, Sarah McGarvey manages the field trip schedule. Garvey said that fifth-graders visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington last October for the children's national Holy Hour where students dressed in the costumes of their ethnic heritage. During Lent, fourth-graders went to the Franciscan Monastery in Washington and walked the Stations of the Cross.

Most schools also send a student contingent to the March for Life held every January on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Many field trips are science-related.

Nativity School in Burke has a strong science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program, so the school likes to emphasize science as much as possible. On Jan.15, they had an in-house field trip called STEM engineering assembly, where they brought in experts to help students build bridges from sticks and marshmallows.

Principal Maria Kelly said other trips on the schedule include a visit to a recycling center and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Kelly also said that eighth-graders have an annual trip to Junior Achievement's Finance Park in Fairfax. The park is designed to teach students to plan and implement a personal budget.

Finance Park is proving popular with diocesan schools. Last year's inaugural field trip drew 13 diocesan schools. This year the Office of Catholic Schools hopes for more.

Sister Therese Bauer, principal of St. Michael School in Annandale, said they've cut back on field trips because of the costs of transportation.

In December, four students and a teacher went to a STEM mentoring class at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum in Washington.

The seventh-grade class takes an annual trip to visit congress.

Eighth-graders go on an annual field to EDGE at George Mason University in Fairfax. EDGE (energize, develop, grow and excel) uses rope courses to help students use physical and mental prowess to accomplish tasks.

"Students participate in various outdoor activities that build team work, problem solving and cooperation among team members as they help one another accomplish given tasks," said Sister Therese.

Kathryn Littlefield, principal of Queen of Apostles School in Alexandria, also is focusing on STEM. They're taking students to the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Carderock, Md.

"It's a great opportunity for the students to experience math and science," said Littlefield.

Field trips are not all science. Some have a journalism bent.

St. William of York School in Stafford has an annual trip to the Newseum in Washington.

Frank Nicely, principal, said that the school's Panther Post staff loves the trip. The visit is coordinated by teacher Rosie Carrington, who said that the Newseum is free for the students; schools are responsible for transportation.

"(It's a) big selling point for schools on a budget," said Carrington.

Carrington said the students enjoy the opportunity to play real reporters and to have their reporting taped and saved on the Newseum's website for later viewing.

Students also like the opportunity to see the front page of newspapers from around the world, including the Catholic Herald.

Whether it's a shrine, museum, recycling center or a finance park, the Washington area is rife with opportunities for educational field trips, especially free or inexpensive ones just a bus ride away.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015