School trips may be cancelled, but that doesn’t stop these teachers from continuing to connect with their students in class

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MetOpera.org

The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, a trip FHC’s orchestra participates in

Taking her students to Strasbourg was an annual tradition that French teacher Laurie Van Houten wasn’t able to partake in for 2020.

Some classes get the privilege of traveling to different states or countries for further knowledge and experience. Van Houten’s class regularly travels to Strasbourg for the chance to use their skills learned from previous years in France. 

With spring approaching, a popular time to travel, the circumstances are looking similar to those of last year. Though she was looking forward to the trips, VanHouten is still trying to accommodate all her students, both online and in-person, and prepare them for when they are finally able to make the trip to France.

“I try to teach enough about the culture,” VanHouten said. “Anytime my students travel they will be aware of how to act, some cultural differences, and how to be a polite American while abroad.”

Not only do her French students travel to Strasbourg to meet people, but they also host an exchange to the United States. Through this, kids from Strasbourg can learn about American culture, connect with international people, and even have conversations with them. 

VanHouten knows that some things are not teachable despite having the necessary resources and is upset at the thought of not hosting for the second year in a row.  

“The biggest change was not having our Strasbourg group come,” VanHouten said, “It’s so fun to have those kids join in class—especially upper-levels. [The students from both Strasbourg and America have] had some fascinating discussions about cultural differences including the philosophy of their governments, separation of church and state, immigration, etc. You just can’t teach that.”

Although there are no plans for the future, VanHouten expects to start planning a future trip as soon as traveling is safer. 

Similarly, FHC’s choir teacher Sean Ivory’s quadrennial trip to Disney World—where singers have the chance to participate in a choral performance and explore the parks—has been postponed as well due to unsafe travel.

Many students from his choir classes were looking forward to going on this trip and viewed it as a fun activity away from school. Though Ivory hasn’t had to alter his teaching plans much this year, the choir performances he showcases will now be canceled. He is partial to the lack of activity happening in his class, and he would much rather be traveling alongside students.

“I love traveling with students from FHC,” Ivory said. “I’m looking forward to doing something unique and fun with my students outside of the normal school day.” 

With schools transferring from hybrid to online and back again, it can be hard to strengthen bonds you would normally get in a class setting. Ivory is counting down the days to when it will be safer to travel and have intimate connections with his students in an entertaining way.

“Trips give us all a chance to bond as a choir and as a program,” Ivory said. “We see each other in a different context and form new friendships.”

Beyond the walls of FHC are new learning opportunities. This isn’t only a fun way to get to know your classmates better, but also a way for students to experience independence and exploration along with ideas and concepts that can’t be taught from inside the classroom. 

Last November, Andrew Pool’s orchestra classes were planning on taking a trip to New York City. On this trip, the students would have been able to hear and see some of the best fine arts institutions: the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and more. 

Many museums and other attractions such as the 911 Memorial, The Museum of Natural History, or The Metropolitan Museum of Art, are simply not able to accommodate groups of traveling students due to restrictions on the sizes of groups in enclosed spaces. Coronavirus caused the exciting trip to be canceled with no chance that it could be rescheduled during this school year. 

Pool, like Ivory, enjoys his class trips and the chance it gives him to get to know his students in a setting that deems more relaxing than a normal school environment. 

Many of the cultural activities we enjoy are unique experiences for my students—things they have never seen or heard or done before,”  Pool said. “It’s exciting to share these experiences with them and to see how the students are transformed and inspired by them.”

[School trips are] an experience I hope future classes of FHC music students will enjoy once this pandemic is brought under control on a global level”

— Pool

Pool believes that in the future, there will be more restrictions adding to the difficulty of convincing FHPS to allow travel. Though the activities he plans in class are not directly related to the trips he organizes for his students, he still tries to encourage his students to look forward to the days when traveling will be accessible again. 

 “[School trips are] an experience I hope future classes of FHC music students will enjoy once this pandemic is brought under control on a global level,” Pool said. “This pandemic is not a forever thing, and we need to look beyond it and the negative effects it has had on us in many ways.”