“We’re going on a bear hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
I’m not scared.
What a beautiful day!”
Did you read the book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” as a child? Or did you read the book to your own children or students? This one is my favorite, by far. I think it is the adventurous spirit of the family and kids, out exploring despite facing long grass, cold rivers, and oozy mud. They explore through the deep dark forest and the swirling whirling snowstorm. As I would read it to my boys when they were young, I’d try my best to recreate the excitement of the bear hunt with its swishy, swashy grass, the squelching of the mud, and the woo hoo of the snowstorm. They would get excited and giggle, even though they knew what came next, and ask for me to read the book “again” and “again.” In reflecting on this as we enter a new school year I wonder….
What if every day at school was as adventurous as a bear hunt?
The bear hunt is an ultimate field trip for the ages. It reminds me of what my son Connor said to me upon returning home from a field trip to Boston at the end of last year. Usually, when I ask him what he learned in school he offers few details about his day; but, after the field trip to Boston, he was eager and excited to share what we saw and learned. Then he asked….
“Mom, why can’t every day at school be a field trip?”
Well, I could have launched into the high costs of field trip busses, or the need for numerous parent chaperones, or state testing; however, that wasn’t REALLY what he was asking. The core of his question was truly about the structure of learning we typically provide for our students, the design of our lessons, and the sometimes lack of opportunities for experiential learning, which he found to be motivating, engaging, and relevant.
Going further back in time, this leads me back to a memory of when I interviewed for a high school history teaching position and the principal asked me the following questions: “If you had all the money and resources you needed, what learning experience would you provide to your students?” At the time, as a prospective history teacher, I walked the interview committee through descriptions of a field trip to Italy and Greece to see the ancient cities first-hand. After an elaborate description, the principal thanked me, then swiftly followed with, “I’m sorry to tell you that all of the promised funding for that experience ran out. With this new information, how would you recreate that experience you just described for the students in the classroom?” Although I don’t remember the answer I gave (and I was hired for the position thankfully), I never forgot the interview question because it was a powerful message about the expectations for student learning at that school. As we enter our next school year, these are our challenges to consider:
1. How can we create the field trip experience for our students every day in school, which captures the spirit and enthusiasm of the bear hunt?
2. How can we develop learning opportunities filled with adventure, where our students come back each day laughing and declaring “again, again” no matter what age they are?
It isn’t easy. There will be obstacles we can’t go over or under. But sometimes we just have to gather all together and go through it in order to capture that bear. Happy bear hunting in 2017-2018.