Students take off for life-changing tripsMar 29, 2022 08:58PM ● By Jet Burnham
Students enter the Jefferson Library of Congress during a school history trip in February. (Photo courtesy of Elaine Grant.)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
After two years of limitations and cancellations due to COVID, students are once again going on life-changing school trips that make their classroom learning come alive.
In February, 50 students taking advanced history and government classes at West Jordan High School went on a five day trip to Washington, D.C. Arranged by teachers, the trip was packed with educational experiences at monuments and museums.
“We just try to provide that experience for them so that they can have a love and appreciation for our Founders and for our history as a country,” AP Government teacher Elaine Grant said. “It's very powerful to be in some of those places where things happened. We read about it, but to actually go there and see some of those things, it's phenomenal.”
Junior Will Cebrowski had learned about the Founding Fathers’ sacrifice and dedication in forming a new government for a new nation, but it wasn’t until he saw the Declaration of Independence and other treasured documents on display at the National Archives that he felt a connection to them.
“While viewing the documents, Will was overcome with emotion connected to the sacredness of the documents and his feelings for freedom,” said Will’s mother, Em Cebrowski, who was one of 25 chaperones for the trip. A kind guard noticed Will’s reaction and gave him a special tour, sharing some lesser-known facts about the documents.
Grant’s goal for extra-curricular trips is to “try to bring history alive.” In May, she has a trip planned to Mesa Verde National Park where her AP World History students will be able to climb into the caves of Aztec ruins.
Crystal Coe said the D.C. trip was a reward for all of her daughter Eliza’s hard work in the three AP history classes she’s taken.
“A trip like this is more than just understanding history, it’s those real life experiences,” Coe said. “You learn in books and you experience the bubble that you live in, but I love these experiences because it really opens her world.”
Jordan District’s policy is that these trips must be optional and have no impact on a student’s grade. All trip costs must be paid by the participant, not with school funds.
While some students have parents or grandparents that help pay for the trip, others earn the money themselves through fundraisers organized by the teachers. WJHS students sold cookie dough, bread dough and Swig gift cards.
For students who qualify for fee waivers for extra curricular activities, administrators and teachers do whatever they can to help them earn money for the trip.
“There are no slush funds that we can pull money from,” Grant said. “If everyone wants to go on a waiver, then we just can't go.”
Bryan Leggat said one year, as an administrator at Copper Hills High School, he bought eight boxes of cookie dough from fundraising students.
“I didn’t necessarily like the cookies, but it was to support the kids because I knew that was their way to have these opportunities that maybe would be life-changing for them,” he said.
Jordan Board of Education President Tracy Miller said school trips are great learning opportunities that can be a memorable part of high school, but should be reasonably priced.
“The itinerary and all associated costs must be approved by 85% of the parents before it is submitted to the district for approval,” Miller said. “Once the costs hit a certain budget, it is difficult to receive approval.”
Copper Hills High School choir teacher Marc Taylor said trip prices are higher this year because of rising travel costs and cancel-for-any-reason insurance protection, which has become necessary due to COVID.
He had to request special approval for the budget of his 6-day trip to New York for 65 choir students (and 30 chaperones) at the end of March. He said he was told “the means must justify the ends and we must not be burdening families with high ticket, extravagant or ‘unnecessary’ offerings.”
Taylor stands by every item on his trip itinerary.
“I am very careful to include things that are all of educational value and that tie into my curriculum (and, yes, that includes Broadway, concerts, music of all kinds, etc.),” he said. “I do consider sightseeing the major sights of a major city as educational, in terms of its history and culture.”
Some of the activities, such as Broadway performances, were optional.
Taylor knows that with travel costs rising, future long-distance trips may no longer get approval.
“I know they're trying to make things more equitable, but sometimes it's hard to find the right balance,” Taylor said. “Many parents actually want a great experience with great things planned for their kids and are willing to pay for them.”
Taylor’s New York trip cost each student just over $1,400. The cost for the D.C. trip was $985.
“I felt like what they asked from us was super fair, and I'm a pretty frugal person,” Coe said.
WJHS art and photography teacher Robyn Briggs, who will take her students on a New York City trip later this month, kept the trip cost to $900 by utilizing free options, such as touring the murals around the SoHo area.
“The amount of art visible in NYC is life changing and really inspiring for so many of these students,” Briggs said. “Having a trip dedicated to their craft really helps them hone their skills and develop a love for their artistic abilities.” Briggs’ own high school trip to NYC influenced her decision to pursue a career in the arts.
Another low cost activity Briggs has planned is taking opportunities to create art.
“I love that students can photograph/draw onsite at many famous monuments and locations, which gives them an experience unlike anything they have experienced before,” Briggs said.