CISD Education Foundation Grants: ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’

Written by Kay Hubbard.

Elementary Field Trips: Bringing Learning to Life ‘On the Road’

Editor’s note: This article is the fourth in a series about some CISD Education Foundation grants from which local students, teachers, and campuses receive such great benefit. It is amazing to see what can be done with these resources donated by generous people in our community when placed in the hands of teachers who think and dream big!

 Time spent in the classroom in an elementary school is certainly vital, and teachers of our youngest learners are usually masters of the art of turning their classrooms into learning laboratories. They realize the value of hands-on learning and making use of a wide variety of ways to present subject matter—visual, auditory, kiniesthetic, tactile, you name it!

However, ask any teacher or student about the most memorable learning experiences, and the answers will nearly always involve great field trips! That’s why so many of the CISD Education Foundation grants written for elementary students take them on the road for tremendous learning opportunities that the regular budget simply cannot provide. A field trip also offers so much more than “subject information,” especially for children who seldom if ever have an opportunity to leave the confines of their home, school, or community.

Science is one of the most common subjects for which field trips can offer invaluable teaching. Kim Bagley wrote a grant for all Carthage first graders to visit the enormous strawberry patch at Panola Orchards as part of a study of plants. The students took a hayride out to the patch and were shown how the seeds are planted and about the life cycle of the plant. Each child picked an entire gallon of berries before returning to the general store, where the students tasted homemade strawberry ice cream and observed all the other products that come from the orchards. Kim says, “True hands-on experiences like this provide kids with a wealth of information. From watching how the berries are planted and harvested, to picking and eating the fresh fruit, they quickly appreciate how hard work can pay off, not to mention the health benefits of eating fresh produce. This is a fun day packed with learning, one these students will remember for many years to come!”

Kathy LaGrone wrote two science field trip grants for all pre-kindergarten students—one to Gators and Friends and the other to the Shreveport Aquarium. Kathy says, “As pre-kindergarten teachers, it is our duty to provide children with as many hands-on activities and experiences as possible. Gators and Friends provides them with an opportunity to interact with animals they would normally not see around East Texas. They get to hold a baby alligator and feed a variety of other animals. At the aquarium, they get to view and touch sea life that they've only seen in pictures, and the tour guide does a phenomenal job of describing all the sea life and their habitats. Taking children to places like this is truly priceless. Many of these children have never left Panola County, much less experienced exciting places like these. Watching them interact with animals and seeing them mesmerized by ocean life tells us that the kids are truly enjoying the hands-on experience and how valuable these grants are!”

Several teachers at other grade levels also wrote grants for field trips to the Shreveport Aquarium—Brooke Kneipp for all kindergarten students, Karen Caver for all second and third grade students, and Shelley Goolsby for all fourth grade students. “We loved our trip to the aquarium,” says Brooke. “It is so nice to have such an exciting learning experience just down the road that allows students the opportunity to reinforce classroom lessons with hands-on activities! This kind of trip also gives many students an exciting experience they may never get to do otherwise. We cannot thank our Education Foundation enough for the support they give us!”

Karen adds, “The excitement in the classroom on field trip day is electric. With standards at an all-time high on every level, students and teachers love an opportunity to have fun! But the best part is, in the fun there is also an immense amount of LEARNING! CISD students are blessed to have these opportunities for learning outside the classroom through educational field trips that are an integral part of their education!”

Melissa Johnson wrote two science field trip grants for kindergarten students—to visit Caldwell Zoo and Science Discovery Place, both in Tyler. Melissa says, “The Discovery Science Place provides a unique learning environment with quality hands-on science activities using models and equipment that cannot be replicated in the classroom. Also, to enhance students’ understanding of social studies, Home Town, USA is a child-size community that spotlights many of the key businesses and services found in communities all across the region. Young visitors can role-play, explore career options and learn about the cooperative relationships that build a successful community in all kinds of model businesses.”

She continues, “A visit to Caldwell Zoo stimulates the students’ appreciation of nature and enriches the basic understanding of animals that they get in the classroom through books and pictures. Observing animals in their natural environment—their movements, their survival needs, how they care for their young, their distinct characteristics and and habitats—simply cannot happen without a field trip!”

April Bagley wrote a science field trip grant for fifth graders to visit Sci-Port Discovery Center in Shreveport for hands-on experiences in math, science, and technology. However, the venue was being remodeled when the trip was planned, and the group went instead to Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park in Shreveport. April says, “While we have taken students in the past to Sci-Port and had amazing experiences there, this nature park also proved to be fascinating for them. The trip reinforced and expanded so many of the concepts we had studied, including life cycles, the CO2/O2 cycle, adaptations of animals, and so much more. The students got to see and even interact with many animals in their natural habitats. The trip also included a nature walk that featured discussions about plants and trees growing in the area. We appreciate the Education Foundation so much for providing these amazing hands-on experiences for our students!”

Historical venues provide equally great experiences for elementary field trips as the ones for science. Judy Reyes wrote a grant for Libby Elementary second graders to visit Millard’s Crossing Historic Village in Nacogdoches, where history is brought to life. Students handle artifacts and tools used over a century ago and get a view of life in 19th century East Texas. Judy says, “They participate in activities like planting, shucking corn, and sitting in for ‘lessons’ in a one-room schoolhouse. Libby teachers appreciate the Education Foundation so much for funding this grant. This kind of hands-on learning helps cement the social studies concepts we have been teaching all year.”

Amanda Ivy’s grant to take first graders to historic Jefferson is another social studies endeavor. She says, “There’s no better way to journey back in time than to take the kids to historic Jefferson. So many of our children don’t fully understand how advanced we have become in terms of transportation, trade, and the movement of goods from one place to another. On this trip, the students got to witness it all! From riding in a mule-drawn carriage, to experiencing how a riverboat was used for moving goods down the river, they gained a better appreciation for modern day technology, transportation, and services.”

Libby Elementary teacher Cindy Stacy wrote grants for both second and third grade trips to the American Freedom Museum in Bullard, as well as one for all Libby students to participate in “Read Across America.” Cindy explains, “The American Freedom Museum offered activities that gave the students a greater understanding and appreciation of our country. The third graders participated in a scavenger hunt for presidents and American symbols and learned how individuals, events, and ideas have influenced our history and made us a great nation. The second graders heard historical stories of ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things—acts of heroism and bravery that make our history an exciting adventure. They were also able to observe artifacts and depictions of historic events that made history come alive for them!”

She continues, “’Read Across America’ is held each March 2 to promote reading and celebrate the birthday of famous children’s author Dr. Seuss. In our celebration, a variety of community members—businessmen, athletes, school administrators, and many other individuals—visited classrooms to read Dr. Seuss books aloud and share their love of reading. The grant also provided each child with a book to keep.”

Teachers have also written a number of elementary grants in which the “field trip” comes to the school. Chelcy Shows wrote one for the “Creature Teacher” to present a program for all first and second grade students. “She is wonderful,” says Chelcy. “She brings a number of animals to show the students and shares amazing facts about their habitats, what they eat, where they come from, and other fascinating information. She also gives clues to see if they can guess what animal she will bring out next. The students gain so much knowledge and also get a sweet surprise with the kangaroo she shows at the end. She lets ‘Jack’ jump around and lets the students touch them on their way out. It is a great experience for all of them!”

Gina Dodge wrote a grant for four performances for pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade students by “The Story Lady.” Gina says, “She brings books to life, engaging the children and taking them on an adventure they won’t forget!”

Libby music teacher Mary Lou Taylor wrote two grants for second and third graders, both of which will be completed later this fall . One is for a visit by the Hampstead Stage Company, which features a live theatre performance of literary classics with professional actors. The performances will focus on creativity, critical thinking, leadership, and responsibility. The other is “A Day of Drumming,” in which the classroom setting will be transformed into a community drum circle representing the great diversity in the music literature of various cultures.

Natalie Brewster wrote a grant for “Dinosaur Zoo Live” to visit and present an unusual theatrical performance for third graders featuring very engaging life-like dinosaurs and other creatures that bring the prehistoric world to life.

What a wonderful and amazing line-up of activities the Education Foundation has provided for these Carthage ISD students through grants conceived and written by their creative, caring, and hardworking teachers!