This year’s ASL field trips will offer new opportunities for growth after a difficult year

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Kimberly Anderson

The American Sign Language level threes and fours went on their first field trip of the year on Thursday.

Senior Alex Hurt has never been on an American Sign Language field trip, despite being in level four. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ASL classes were unable to partake in their normal field trips last year. The closest thing Alex has experienced to an ASL field trip is his experience volunteering at the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services for class credit. 

Alex heard a lot about the ASL field trips from last year’s level four students. Based on what he’s heard, he’s hoping that this year’s field trips will not disappoint his high expectations and that he will enjoy his time on them. 

“I am looking forward to spending time with the people in [ASL] level four since they are all super cool and nice, and I like them a lot,” Alex said. “I am also looking forward to spending more time with the Deaf community since I have little experience with that.”

Fortunately for him, these field trips will provide a variety of immersive opportunities. 

In a normal year, the level three and four ASL classes would take field trips roughly once a month. Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the classes could not go on any field trips. ASL teacher Kimberly Anderson is trying to make up for that this year. 

I think it’s cool that when we’re in these environments that they feel more confident in what they are doing.”

— Kimberly Anderson

“I’m just trying to get us out and get us looking at some stuff because last year we didn’t do anything,” Anderson said.

On Sept. 23, the ASL classes took their first field trip—Frederik Meijer Gardens. Anderson assigned her level three students to use their signing skills to describe the sculptures that they saw on their tour and her level 4 students to interpret for their tour guide as they talked about the sculpture’s history. These different activities test the separate skills that her level three and four students are focusing on right now. 

Starting in October, the ASL classes will begin visiting the Fine Arts Center to teach adult sign language classes. In the winter, they will transition to teaching senior citizens. Those will each last for about two months, with classes being taught weekly. In the spring, Anderson will take her classes to the zoo to describe animal facts. She will give them a list of animal facts and ask them to make videos about the animals that they see. After the videos are made, Anderson will send them out to elementary schools in the district so younger kids can learn some sign language. She will also be taking students to teach ASL at elementary schools for “fun Fridays.”

Senior Erynn Boersema is also excited about the ability to go on these field trips this year. Like Alex, she hasn’t gone on a trip with her class yet. She feels that her tight-knit class already has a fun and bright energy that will carry over into their trips out of the classroom.

I am looking forward to having fun with the other level fours and threes,” Erynn said. “It’s a fun class, and this is just an opportunity for us to get out and have more fun.”

Erynn hopes that the field trips can bring the level fours closer together and give them a break from their typical environment in a classroom. Her feelings are exactly what Anderson hopes her students would feel about these trips. 

Anderson sees being out of the classroom as a way to reset. Seeing her students so excited for these experiences is one of Anderson’s favorite things. Despite her love for all of the field trips that she brings her students on, there is one from the past that holds a special place in Anderson’s heart.

“[My favorite memory is] when we [were teaching] the senior citizen group,” Anderson said. “The kids get partnered with [a senior citizen], so I call them their signing grandparents; they are with that person for two months. The last year that I did it—like four years ago—I don’t know if they planned it, but they had all bought my students gifts. All [of my students] were special to them after being with them for so long, [so] it was to kind of thank them and get them ready for college. One had a t-shirt made of the college that the kid was going to. It was just some really sweet stuff. It made my heart melt.”

Anderson hopes that her students will enjoy these field trips, such as teaching senior citizens, as much as she does. She wants them to look back and see how beneficial interacting with people of different backgrounds is. It is her goal for these trips to be fun and impactful.

“My favorite part is seeing them excited to get out of the school,” Anderson said. “I think it’s cool that when we’re in these environments that they feel more confident in what they are doing. It’s really awesome when we go teach the adults and the senior citizens. I do the main lesson but it’s really up to them to continue doing it. When we go to Frederik Meijer Gardens, I’ve taught the [the signs] so it becomes [me] seeing if they can do it. I think it’s really awesome to see them grow and rise up to the challenge to do that.”