The Educational Value of Field Trips

The Educational Value of Field Trips at The Sycamore School

Part of our personalized experiential learning approach at The Sycamore School (TSS) is connecting learning to our larger world, and one of the ways we do this is by regularly taking students on field trips. 

We call Fridays our community-based learning day — students go on field trips related to what they’re studying, participate in community service outings, and welcome guest speakers. They also engage in extension activities such as science labs and career days. 

This year, our youngest middle school cohorts studied ecosystems and natural disasters. As part of this experience class, students went to Lacey Woods to investigate and learn how to identify local flora and fauna. They also visited a virtual aquarium to explore underwater ecosystems and food webs. This experience helped them make real-life connections to the concepts they discussed in class. Our youngest cohorts also participated in a soil investigation lab. They collected soil samples found in a local Arlington park, made observations, and compared and contrasted using dichotomous keys. 

Our upper middle school cohorts studied “War & Peace.” During this experience class, their field trips included the Spy Museum, the American History Museum, the National Archives, and the Building Museum. At the Spy Museum, our students visited the “Spies that Shaped America” exhibit highlighting how spies impacted the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Additionally, our students tried to break codes and ciphers using logical reasoning and mathematical skills. This cohort also hosted several speakers. Professor Cassandra Good and two Marymount University students presented their research regarding the Revolutionary War’s important and diverse historical figures. This was an opportunity for our “War and Peace” students to revisit the causes, effects, and perspectives they studied during their Revolutionary War unit and expand their knowledge by asking questions of an expert. The National Building Museum trip aimed to study modern architecture and participate in a build, work, and play activity to construct various buildings using what they had learned about forces, physics, and architecture. Our students also participated in the Leaning Tower of Pasta Lab. They experimented with different structures to determine which ones could handle the greatest amount of weight. They also considered tension and compression forces when designing and choosing the appropriate materials for a building or structure. 

Field Trip to the Holocaust Museum
TSS students at the Holocaust Museum

Our high school cohort participated in a Psychology experience class. They hosted numerous guest speakers and visited the Holocaust Museum, the African American Museum, and the Zoo. The purpose of the Zoo field trip was to practice naturalistic observation skills, which is a type of methodology common in psychological research. It was also an opportunity to observe animal behaviorism, a topic option for their individual psych projects. At the Holocaust Museum, our high school students viewed the Americans and the Holocaust exhibit to learn how America responded to the Holocaust (both during the war and afterward) and tie it into what they were learning about World War II in their Experience class. One of the guest speakers spoke about classic obedience experiments by Ainsworth, Zimbardo, and Milgram. Students were asked to reflect on obedience in their own lives and design their own obedience experiment.

Our upper middle school and high school students also had the opportunity to visit the Arlington Center and see our art teacher, Olivia Tripp Morrow’s, installation. Students were able to visit her studio, walk through the exhibit with her, and also create a piece of art related to the exhibit that involved printmaking. 

Some of our elective teachers also took students on field trips and participated in Friday activities. Our Spanish class went to the Mexican Institute of Culture where they toured the historic mansion of Meridian Hill and viewed the mural paintings of Roberto Cueva de Rio. This trip allowed students to connect the vocabulary they had been learning in class to Hispanic culture and history. Our German class engaged in a cooking activity, where they made Käsespätzle, a traditional dish from southern Germany.

Our student council plans at least one field trip that is designed to be a fun team-building experience each quarter. This year, they organized outings to Urban Evolution, Sportsrock, Skyzone, and several Escape Rooms. 

Field trip to Skyzone
TSS students at Skyzone

Our high school participated in a virtual Career Day with Arlington County in the fall and we hosted a TSS Career Day at TSS in the spring. The purpose of this activity was for the high school students to learn about various careers. They had the opportunity to ask questions following each speaker and had a general cohort discussion at the end of the event.

Students across cohorts also engaged in a variety of community service outings. They have decorated kindness rocks, assembled Halloween treat bags for homeless shelters, made paracord bracelets for service people, and woven blankets for animal shelters. Our community partners include Culpepper Gardens Senior Living Facility, Doorways, New Hope Housing, Bridges to Independence, Operation Gratitude, and the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. Below is a list of some of our community service projects and providers with our community partners in bold: 

  1. Decorating “kind rocks” and distributing them throughout the community 
  2. Trash pick up around the community
  3. Halloween bags full of treats & cards for New Hope Housing 
  4. Culpepper Gardens – helping with gardening/weeding 
  5. Culpepper Gardens – band performance 
  6. Making cards for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, holiday/Christmas – Bridges to Independence & Culpepper Gardens
  7. Food drives around Thanksgiving & Christmas – New Hope Housing 
  8. Making animal blankets for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington
  9. CPR/first aid training for high schoolers 
  10. Making paracord bracelets for Operation Gratitude 
  11. Household cleaning & kitchen supplies drive for Bridges to Independence. 

Learn more about how TSS integrates academic development, social-emotional growth, and civic engagement by attending an admissions event.