|CAA's 8th grade class of 2011 set sail for the Bahamas Sunday, June 5, 2011 from Port Canaveral, FL. In this photo class treasurer, "Freshboi", looks out to sea as the Carnival cruise vessel Sensation leaves port.|
My first 8th grade class trip was to Bali, when I was just 25 years old and a new teacher at Saipan SDA School. It was a learning experience. The kids were so terrified of the aggressive vendors on the streets of Kuta that they begged to just stay in the hotel. I lost $75 of the class’s money to quick-fingered money-changers. A group of my boys had to be moved from their hotel room because their loud horseplay in their room led to complaints. I learned a lot that year and since then, I’ve taken groups of 8th graders to Australia (twice), the Philippines and Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Singapore and Orlando and the Bahamas. All of the trips have been fantastic experiences.
Here in America I’ve encountered a question that was never asked during in our years in Saipan: Why do the 8th graders get to go on such extravagant trips? (Well, actually no one has ever asked me that question directly, but I’ve been told the question was asked a lot this past school year. The board votes at the local, conference, and union level were close, I’m told). A typical 8th grade class trip is a visit to a neighboring city, a day at the local amusement park, and maybe a night or two at the Travelodge. The kids have a good time and go home. Some schools might even pull out all the stops and make the trek to DC for a few days of national heritage touring. The kids get to see history first hand, learn a lot, and go home. But riding an elephant by day in Thailand and sleeping in a five-star hotel in Bangkok at night? White-water rafting in Bali? Learning to throwa boomerang from an Aborigine and petting a kangaroo in Australia? Attending a Broadway-style musical on the history of South Korea and hearing a world-reknowned pianist play in a beautiful concert hall in Seoul? Experiencing three national cultures in one city on the island nation of Singapore? Taking a cruise to the Bahamas? Isn’t it all a little much? After all why should mere kids get to experience all that?
My response is simple: Why shouldn’t they? The kids shouldn’t just have a little fun and learn a few things and then go home. They should have an experience of a lifetime, a trip they’ll never forget.
I think 8th grade is an ideal time to take students on a major trip—whether it be to one of the great cities of America or to an exciting international destination. Public and private schools are beginning to offer opportunities for kids as young as fifth grade to go to places like France and China. This website has an ongoing discussion among teachers a few years ago discussing taking their middle school students to places like Mexico and Spain! I’m proud to say that at the schools where I’ve taught we’ve been ahead of the curve instead of playing catch-up.
Here’s what I’ve found from more than ten years of touring the world with middle-schoolers:
8th grade students are old enough to appreciate the experience and are able to handle being away from home, but young enough that they can’t get into adult-style trouble. With my 8th graders I don’t have to worry about my kids trying to sneak out at night to find the local nightclub. I don’t need to worry about the kids trying to take advantage of another country’s lower legal drinking age. Onboard the Carnival Sensation, I knew none of my kids were going to have much interest in or the ability to sneak their way into the casinos or night clubs. The kids, despite the already raging hormones and their belief that they know everything, still retain a certain innocence that precludes trouble and also can make more open to the new experience. To be honest, I don’t think I’d ever want to volunteer to take a group of high school seniors on a major trip—too much stress and worry! I’ll take my 8th graders any day.
|On Tuesday, June 7, 2011 we visited the new campus of Bahamas Academy of Seventh-day Adventists on New Providence Island, which is still under construction. Eventually this $10 million complex will house over eight hundred students.|
|We also visited the current campus of the Bahamas Academy of Seventh-day Adventists. The kids were amazed to learn that the 8th grade class at Bahamas Academy has more students than our entire school!|
|The kids originally wanted to go to California, but they ended up here instead. Bummer. (Lacaya Beach, Freeport, Bahamas. June 6, 2011)|
ahhh 8th grade class trip, by far the best week in my life! Australia was amazing. Memories of it are still fresh in my mind. Arriving at the airport, waiting for the bus driver, getting to the hotel, arguing of beds, going to church, e...ating those LARGE mangoes, switching hotels, laser tagging, tube riding, that aboriginal park, that skyrail that was VERY scary, kei learning how to wash clothes, SHOPPING, white water rafting, and the four wheeler stuff. AND POOL, i wasted alot of money playing that. It was so much fun and we learned so much from it. All the fundraisers and all the hard work to get there was all worth it. Learning about the aboriginal people was cool too, I did not know they even existed and I bet they didn't know what chamorros or carolinians were. Imagine that, one week in Australia and I discovered a new race--Kono Remeliik (Class of 2008, Australia)
#3. Learning is always on the itinerary. And by that I don’t necessarily mean museums (though those are often included too). A zoo, a classical music concert, a centuries-old fort, a cultural village are great academic learning experiences. But I also want my students to learn about the larger Adventist organization our school belongs to. I make it a point to visit an Adventist institution on every class trip. I also want my students to learn how to conduct themselves while traveling whether right here in America or abroad. Whether on a plane, train, or cruise ship I want my students to learn how to travel, how to make their way in a new place with courtesy, curiosity, and dignity.
I absolutely love the fact that I fell in love with Thailand. It became to me more than just a trip. The people were great and I really enjoyed the food, the stores, the culture. It was very good at impressing me. Learning some things and learning social norms in different places is also a very cool and neat thing to experience-Wilfredo Paez (Class of 2005, Philippines & Thailand)
Blogging the Bahamas Beaches: Onshore in Freeport and Nassau
The Endorsement: WonderWorks, Orlando FL
More photos! Pastor Joel Johnson, the father of one of our 8th graders, traveled with us as a chaperone and took lots of photos. He promised us all copies of all his pictures, and as soon as I collect on that promise, I will add a lot more photos to this entry and the others to come. Also, I'm going to work on getting written permission from all my students' parents so that I can post photos of the kids on the blog. After all, it's a bit odd to have blog entries about my trip with my students and never see the kids!
|Pastor Johnson armed with multiple cameras. With this kind of equipment, I think you can expect some pretty outstanding photos!|