Can All Schools Do This?

What’s bynydnidee
particularly wonderful about this outdoor field trip is how it gives kids who aren’t “good” or successful in the classroom another place to show who they are. It was sent to us by filmmaker Alastrair Humphreys, who writes:

Two years ago, teacher Mrs Monaghan took her class on an overnight microadventure (video here).

Now, for their “Leavers’ Treat”, the children asked if they could go on another microadventure. I went along again to film how they got on.


School Microadventure from Alastair Humphreys on Vimeo.

This school year, maybe some more teachers might consider doing something like this — if at all legally, logistically, curricular-ly possible? – L


A different kind of school test.

A different kind of school test.


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26 Responses to Can All Schools Do This?

  1. theresa hall August 2, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

    I doubt the schools would go for it because we can’t have people who can think and be healthy. without us bossing them about. what would happen if we could boss folks around like crazy?

  2. Reziac August 2, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    Ha. My high school offered a field trip — to Europe. An overnighter in the woods? Any kid can handle that.

    As it says, a chance for kids who normally don’t shine to find a different part of themselves. And a chance for all kids to find a new level of competence.

  3. Dean Whinery August 2, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

    My HDHD kids didn’t have a problem in the classrooms, the problem was lack of understanding form the professional educators. They thrived outdoors, particularly as Boy Scouts. In Scouting they could put their knowledge and energy together and often excel.

  4. Margot August 2, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    This reminds me of my 4th grade teacher, who was admittedly even considered somewhat unconventional 38 years ago (although at least there was some greater tolerance of his techniques back then).
    On one particularly memorable occasion, he bussed us all (a bunch of nine year olds) to the local national park and took us bushwalking along a circular track. At various spots along the walk he deposited a lone kid. By the end of the walk, he had shed every single kid, each out of sight of the one before and behind.
    Our brief was simple; to explore a bit, take in our surroundings, and tell the class about it when we joined up again. 20 minutes or so later he was back around the circuit collecting us all one by one. I recall taking my shoes off to wade in the creek, hanging out with a lizard sunbaking on a rock and writing some poetry. I felt oh so grown up and trusted, and I still fondly remember this man as my best teacher ever.
    Can I just add that I’m talking about the Australian bush – funnel web spiders, dangerous snakes, harsh terrain and widowmakers (gum trees) just waiting to release their giant branches to crash down on our 9 year old heads. OMG, in 2015, this activity would be a lawsuit just waiting to happen.

  5. hineata August 2, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    @Margot – omgosh. ….that sounds just a little insane, LOL! Couldn’t /wouldn’t do that here, the bush is much too dense. Would be finding kids halfway to Timbuctoo :-).

    This is a wonderful idea, but also normal in NZ. Most schools do their outdoor camps in year 5 or 6 (9 to 11 year olds) , and some again at intermediate and high school. Do US schools not go camping? I’m surprised, as it’s great fun.

  6. hineata August 2, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

    @Reziac. These are not high schoolers, but primary schoolers by the looks of them. And Europe is very close to the US. I would expect your high schoolers should be able to go by themselves. ..aren’t they nearly 20 by the time they graduate?

  7. Diana Green August 2, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

    My son’s middle school had OVERNIGHT OUTDOOR SCIENCE EDUCATION for sixth graders, at a camp in the woods with bunk houses and a kitchen. “Science” was wading in creeks and catching creatures to “study”. There was coed baseball in the afternoon, and a film after supper. (“The Young Frankenstein”, a favorite “science” film.) Then came the austere, mean-spirited slash-the-school-budget years, and that was the end of that.

    A ray of hope: Day before yesterday a young mom told me about her little girl’s kindergarten teacher. Just this year. This teacher, for 27 years, has been taking the kids for a walk around a two block area every Friday, rain or shine, sun, snow, whatever. Last winter was very cold and snowy here for two solid months, and out they went. They made “treats” in arts and crafts period for the neighbors on the block, rang doorbells, and greeted the neighbors–a reverse of “Trick or Treat”!

    They discussed the plants in the yards, animals in the houses, snow on the rooftops. Science and humanities, art and culture. They apparently are not too hung up on “stranger danger”! Or the risk of slipping on the ice and breaking little bones.

    The mom said the parents are very supportive. Why not? What’s not to like? It’s kindergarten, after all! Next year these little suburban kids will have to buckle down and start getting ready for Harvard, Stanford, or Penn State.

    Or not. As the case may be.

  8. James Pollock August 2, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

    Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, we had a program called “outdoor school”. Kids from urban and suburban schools (grade schools) went out to a summer camp and spent a week learning things, well, outdoors. They had a core staff of about half a dozen, the kids’ regular schoolteachers, and then they recruited between one and two dozen high-school age kids to act as counselors and instructors. This program was discontinued because of budget cuts.

    However, my daughter’s grade school features a 3 day/2 night science camp. The entire school does fundraisers all year to send the fifth-graders to it near the end of the school year. The school district doesn’t contribute anything, but the fundraising keeps the cost low and allows them to offer scholarships to parents who can’t afford it.

    It can be done.

  9. James Pollock August 2, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    “I would expect your high schoolers should be able to go by themselves. ..aren’t they nearly 20 by the time they graduate?”

    My daughter is 19, and a senior at the local state university. She has travelled domestically rather extensively, but has only been out of the country once. (We were in Southern Arizona, and at the time you still didn’t need a passport to re-enter the U.S., so we went into Mexico, had Mexican Mexican food for lunch, and came back with a few trinkets as souvenirs..

  10. Kim August 2, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    My son’s school does this. First and second graders have an evening, with the second graders spending the night in tents pitched in the schoolyard. The fourth and fifth graders go for a 3 day trip to the Audubon Center.
    It’s great and the kids LOVE it!

  11. Angelo Bonavera August 2, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

    Schools don’t allow this because of pedophobia and not caring about kid’s educational experiences. Plus these things cost money and they’d rather line the teacher’s pockets or put it into sports. They claim “safety issues” claiming evil people and child molesters are lurking but that is not true at all.

  12. Donald August 2, 2015 at 6:06 pm #

    It’s so great to see schools thinking outside the box! But then again of course they would have to. That’s because they have been redefining the boundaries of this box. For decades this box has become smaller and smaller until it’s become the schools system of today.

  13. Beth August 2, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    If schools won’t allow teachers to do this because of “pedophobia” they don’t have much confidence in their hiring decisions, do they. Amazing that they’re not pedophobic during the school day.

  14. Steve August 2, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

    Our elementary school sends the 5th graders on a 3 day outdoor adventure to the Rockies every year (they stay in cabins though). They then hold a fundraiser dinner toward the end of the school year in which they act as waiters, to raise the money to send the next year’s class.

  15. Stephanie August 2, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    My kids’ school does some pretty great field trips. 4th grade is a 4 day trip to Yosemite. Lots of parents go along, but lots don’t. The kids stay in tent cabins with classmates, not parents. They spend a lot of time running around with friends even if the parents are around. There are a lot of boulders around the tent cabin area that the kids climbed all over. Many of them bought Swiss army style pocket knives as souvenirs – the teachers warned them not to bring them to school, but were otherwise very approving of the purchase and use of the knives while camping.

    Some parents had trouble with the kids being so independent – one in particular gave my son a lot of trouble about his wandering about without us, even when lots of other kids were doing the same. But for the most part it went very well.

  16. Allison August 2, 2015 at 11:44 pm #

    I grew up in central Illinois and our urban middle school offered one FULL week of outdoor education to their 7th graders. 250 7th graders camping and studying for a week. We slept in tents. Made our own meals over the campfires. Learned to work as a team. We even had classes outside (for math, we had to measure the volume of water flowing down the creek). It was an incredible experience and one that I am so thankful for.

  17. hineata August 2, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

    Sounds like some of your schools do make the effort, and that’s fantastic. It’s a major part of the education experience in my opinion, and is so good particularly for the kids who don’t ‘fit’ into the classroom….

    Yosemite? Wow! How cool!! Any kids get to see bears? Anyone fall in the hot pools – or is that Yellowstone?

    Safety is important but not the be-all amd end’all.Each year at my girls’ primary school camp somebody broke something. …the bet was on about how fast. One year it was a broken arm, 45 minutes in. :-).

  18. sexhysteria August 3, 2015 at 3:04 am #

    There’s a great film on the Summerhill school in England free on YouTube. Inspiring what a school can do and even fight back against government regulators.

  19. Dhewco August 3, 2015 at 7:07 am #

    Well, now I feel deprived. I’m 42 years old and I never got to go camping with my class. I can remember only one time getting to go to a nearby attraction where we got to work on an old printing press, candy store, and other late 1800’s early 1900’s activities. That was only for a few hours. Every one of our outings was only for a few hours. The only camping I did was with family and one time with scouts.

  20. Juluho August 3, 2015 at 9:04 am #

    Doubtful. The current climate at our public schools restricts field trips heavily. Most grades go some where once a year, sometimes educational sometimes not (Legoland one year, state capital another). No one wants to spend the money. It’s a shame too.

  21. Papilio August 3, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

    I’ve had three overnight camps with my class: one at the end of 6th grade (the big good-bye primary school camp), one at the beginning of 7th grade (the big hello secondary school camp) and one in 10th grade, which included some classes I don’t remember, and mountainbiking in the hills (the one time I wore a bike helmet). None of these camps were abroad – the first two only about 35 and 10? miles from the school, since we went there by bike (plus a couple cars for the luggage etc).

    @Hineata: the primary school camp left me with a 2,5cm scar on the inside of my elbow. I tried to climb on top of something but my foot slipped off, and there was this rusty screw sticking out on the wrong place… Anyway, I first thought it was just a little scratch since it barely hurt, but when I pulled up my sleeve, there was this big round hole in my skin. It didn’t bleed, but you could see all this reddish… flesh.
    I was like, ‘Oh’ and went to find an adult, the other girls were like ‘Eeewww!’ (one kept saying, ‘But she doesn’t cry!’), so I walked around that scouting building with my arm stretched out using my other hand to keep the wound out of sight, and the boys were, for the first time ever, impressed with nerdy sport-hating me because I was so very calm. If anyone sustained a trauma from that, it sure wasn’t me 🙂

  22. Donna August 4, 2015 at 10:39 am #

    Our schools have a 5th grade camping trip every year. I think they go down to one of the barrier islands so it is more beach/marsh than woods. They stay in cabins, not tents.

    Hineata – Most kids attend high school in the US between the ages of 14 and 18. My kid would have to show some considerable travel savvy and responsibility before I would be okay with her heading off to backpack around Europe alone at under 18.

    I don’t think Europe is as assessible to the average American as you think it is. Most have never been there. In fact, only a very small portion of the US population even has a passport.

  23. hineata August 4, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

    @Donna – then it isn’t :-). I’m surprised but probably shouldn’t be. …I did hear a lot of North American accents in Europe, including a bunch of moronic girls of around 18-20 next door to us in Paris who persisted in slamming the hotel room door for about half an hour from midnight until 12.30am, until nighty – clad me scared them into desisting. Which is all beside the point (except for those scarred young minds!) except that somewhere I got the idea that it was some kind of rite of passage thing, much like it is for a lot of us except a little older (20 plus) because of the expense. …

    In any case trips for the end of high school can’t be compared to those for the end of primary school, which was what my original poorly made point was…

  24. SKL August 4, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    I don’t know of any schools around here who do any overnights outside of hotel rooms.

    I’ve found different opportunities outside of school. Scouts does some campouts, and from about age 9, scouts don’t need a parent along. 4H has a week-long residential camp for members (you have to be 8.5+). There are also other week-long camping opportunities starting around age 8/9. In our neck of the woods, that makes more sense since our weather isn’t so great during the school year.

    A Europe trip would be great for high schoolers, though the cost might be prohibitive. I don’t know if many schools do that here or not. It may depend on what clubs the kids join. My sister went to France, UK, and the Netherlands on a Model UN trip in 10th grade (15yo). That was because her school won some competitions within the US. The Rotary Club or some such helped fund the trip.

  25. Papilio August 5, 2015 at 4:04 pm #

    “I don’t think Europe is as assessible to the average American as you think it is. Most have never been there.”

    Doesn’t surprise me at all, also given the funny assumptions, misconceptions and myths I’ve heard and read about my little corner of this continent (that story about the boy who saved the country by putting his finger in a leaking dike all night long is among the more hilarious ones).
    I also think Europeans see/read a lot more of and about the US via news and entertainment than vice versa.

  26. Richard August 6, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    Let them fail.

    Just say no: