Freshman field trip introduces MAP culture early on

December 12, 2017 — by Sanjana Melkote and Krithi Sankar

On Oct. 19, for the first time, students enrolled in the English 9 Media Arts Program classes took a field trip.

The classes went to the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas. Students got a peek into author John Steinbeck’s life and gained a hands-on and collaborative experience by harvesting strawberries and learning about organic farming.

According to Cathy Head, an English 9 MAP teacher, the MAP team had been talking about a freshman field trip for several years. The logistics of taking one-third of the freshman class on a field trip was the main daunting aspect, but, with the support of the MAP staff, the field trip ended up being a successful learning experience.

“We had them think not like a Saratoga freshman but look outside of that,” Head said. “We had them broaden their experience by looking at the lives of other people, like the migrant workers.”

During the field trip, the students had to make a 3-minute movie consisting of a narration and still photographs from the trip to be used as illustrations for their story.

“The students really enjoyed the fact that their project was so open,” Head said. “I thought it would frustrate them, but they really did a great job narrowing it down to a topic and writing about it.”

Popular project topics varied from Steinbeck’s written works to his biography to organic farming. A group even based their film on a self-written story called “Berry the Strawberry: the Life of a Strawberry,” documenting the process of a strawberry’s growth through a personified strawberry named Berry.

The overarching objective of the field trip was to teach students collaboration and to get them to appreciate the type of work done on farms.

To relate the outing back to the classroom, students gained insights on the lives led by characters in Steinbeck’s novel “Of Mice and Men” as well as learned proper research documentation and source synthesis.

“Going on this field trip helped me because it relates the Salinas farm to the farm in the story,” freshman Lauren Tan said. “It also helped me understand what it was like to be farmer just like the characters Lennie and George in the book.”

Head remembers taking juniors on the same field trip during the MAP’s early years, relating it to Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” She said both experiences were positive, because she regards field trips as essential to enhancing students’ learning.

“Just going on the field trip brings students outside of the mode filled with expectations that they’re in at school,” Head said. “When students get outside, things are new and different, and they start learning and appreciating.”


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