“Can you write that another way so I can read it?” is what the cute little boy told me toward the end of our field trip when a group of Clarke County School District kindergartners visited campus. I will go in to more detail about my reflection on the substance (both explicit and implicit) of his request to me that day later in this post. Nevertheless, this was an awesome field trip time for these particular children as our College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) was sponsoring an outdoor viewing of a number of animals that where being presenting on campus for a CVM event.
On most of the field trips along with teachers and parents each class typically has other paraprofessionals that accompany each group. The children are teamed with out College of Education early childhood students who are always so excited to work with the children on campus. The pre-service teachers operate under the direction of Dr. Janna Dresden who is not only a clinical associate professor within the education department at UGA, but also serves as a board member for the Experience UGA program.
The UGA Office of Service-Learning (OSL) oversees the program from an administrative end and works in direct cooperation with faculty, CCSD, and UGA students to help ensure well-coordinated events on campus. The OSL also raises funding that helps with the trips offering its administrative planning, financial support, and OSL volunteers to assist whenever needed.
I was just as excited as the children to see all of the animals that the VCM brought to campus on that day.
Having the opportunity to see a camel, water buffalo and a bison with its horns up close and personal was all the rage for everyone. Particularly, the little guy in my group who attempted to draw the bison. We work in cooperation with the CCSD curriculum objectives and with the kindergartens we focus on concepts of geometry. So as the children tour, they are to identify geometric shapes that the notice in the environment. The next take time to write down the things that they see and later engage with us about their experiences. It is so much fun to see the children point and walk as they shout out loud, “Oh I see a triangle”, “There’s a circle”, “That’s a rectangle”. 🙂
I waited and waited for one of the “fainting sheep” to just keel over!! lol But to both my and my little guy’s disappointment they never fainted in front of us while we viewed them.
Sheep casually strolling around in their pen.
As I mentioned earlier, each child is given a clipboard and writing utensil and are encouraged to write and draw. My little guy was enamored with the extremely large bison (below) and I encouraged him to draw it. He was very hesitant but I encouraged him with each stroke until he gained confidence to draw his own vision of the bison.
This was his initial product and he (and I) were so proud of his drawing. As the children ate their snacks I wrote a little note to him thanking him for coming to visit us at UGA today. Unawares, I wrote the note in cursive. It wasn’t until the little boy asked me, “Can you write that another way so I can read it?”, did I have a sort of epiphany. His words lead me to think about teaching and learning and the assumptions we sometimes make about how individuals perceive, process, and create meaning from their experiences and how important it is that we as educators be prepared to meet learners where they are. The child had no idea how to read cursive as he had not reached the stage of learning such a concept.
We are sometimes faced with learners who either have underexposure to certain experiences that would facilitate learning. They might simply learn more effectively in different albeit creative ways that may require we “go off-script” in order to facilitate effective learning and engagement. I so love how this job allows me to reflect and grow both as a researcher and educator. It also confirms for me an adult education best practice which holds that adult learning (particularly in my case) is a relationship of knowledge reciprocity where I too learn from the children and adults I interact with during the trips. The students are not simply empty vessels that I am looking to pour my omniscient—all knowing—knowledge into via a unidirectional process (i.e., Paulo Freire’s “banking education”). I have offerings in the educational process as do they and the learning should and must me multidirectional. I believe we all know this in the UGA COE, but its good to get a reminder every now and than. 🙂
Lin Chen does a masterful job working under Dr. Dresden in the COE. She does of great job of coordinating the student teacher volunteers and mapping out the day’s activities and routes.
Of course, the departure time is always filled with mixed emotions for us all. The children don’t want to leave and we would love to keep them on campus forever. Nevertheless, we give our hugs and say our goodbyes motivated by the fact that we will get to do this all over again for a different group of students the following week. We resigned yet motivated to watch the children as they continue to matriculate to their next grade levels as they return to us the following year having literally grown older and ready for their next Experience UGA adventure.
UGA Early Childhood Education majors, who volunteer to participate in Experience UGA, are the backbone of the kindergarten field trips to campus.