Summer is prime time for a sightseeing visit to Boston–and it can be wicked educational too.
That’s the motivation for two Middlebrook teachers, Dr. John Priest and Dr. Andrew Cloutier, to plan a three-day trip to Boston that’s open to 40 Wilton students in grades 7 to 9. The only prerequisite for the trip, scheduled for Aug. 14-17, is that students must share a passion for learning and come with an open mind.
“Experiential, hands-on learning is incredible, and invaluable,” says Priest, who teaches 6th grade social studies. “It is also incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to do during the regular school day due to constraints of time, cost, curriculum requirements. That is what I hope kids get out of classes and trips like this, the understanding that the world, history and learning is fun. It is exciting, and you can’t get that from a screen and a book necessarily.”
Priest and Cloutier have been organizing such educational trips for students for several years. They originally ran the program through school- and district-related organizations, such as Continuing Education; they’ve since brought the programs to Trackside Teen Center, where Priest is a board member. He realized that the program offered a great learning opportunity for teenagers while generating invaluable funds for Trackside.
The three-day trip includes a wide variety of activities ranging from a day at Lake Compound Amusement park, tours of the Freedom Trail, Paul Revere’s House, Fenway Park, and Bunker Hill to visits of the Salem Witch Museum and the Museum of Science. Priest’s rationale for taking students on such immersive visits to so many different historical landmarks stems from a passion to educate every student, even those who struggle in a traditional classroom setting.
“Our inspiration for these classes and trips came from not having the time and resources to teach the way we wanted to teach in the classroom. One summer we had about 16 boys in 8th and 9th grade register for our Wars of the 20th century class and they were boys that struggled a lot in the classroom, both behaviorally and academically. Knowing that we had planned a full day of water balloon and water gun war games for the last day of class, we established a ranking system. Kids started the first day as a private first class rank. Throughout the days, student moved up in rank based on finding research facts and meeting challenges during our activities. We had kids that never completed a homework assignment during the school year spending hours looking up obscure facts about the Korean War because they knew they would lead a platoon in our water war games!”
In addition to Priest and Cloutier, there will be other chaperones along for the excursion, including Heather Priest–Middlebrook’s Family and Consumer Science teacher and John Priest’s wife–as well as other Middlebrook teachers. Organizers plan a ratio of one chaperone for every seven students.
Spots for the Boston trip are filling up quickly but there are still a few open spots. There is a class at Trackside on Aug. 14, and the trip runs from Aug. 15-17. The cost to take part is $540 per student, which includes classes, materials, the trip, two breakfasts, two dinners, bus and all fees. Transportation is by coach bus and a two night stay at North Shore Hotel in Danvers, MA are included with this trip.
To reserve a spot on the trip, visit the Trackside website for more information.
Priest advises those who are interested in attending future trips to look out for information about upcoming visits to Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Colonial Williamsburg and perhaps even Montreal!