Can We Take This Outside?—A Deep Dive Into Class Trips at Stuyvesant The Spectator / Features / Issue 13

We are grateful to have opportunities to take electives in a wide range of subjects and look into the frequency of class trips and what they bring to learning.

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By Adeline Sauberli

For many high school students across the country, including those at Stuyvesant, class trips are a distant memory from middle school. Only a few classes at Stuyvesant offer students the opportunity to go on trips. Yet, these class trips are often a very fun way for students to extend learning beyond the classroom.

After reading John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt in AP English Literature, junior Aditya Anand heard of a trip to see the show on Broadway organized by English teacher Dermot Hannon. Anand was able to attend because there was an extra ticket. “I met with some friends who were also going to the play in Stuy at around 6:00 p.m. We got pizza by the A/C/E station, realized we were running late, ran to the 1/2/3 station, and ran down as we saw our train leave in front of us. We were panicking and thought that we'd be late, but we ended up getting there before Mr. Hannon. He gave us our tickets and we went inside the theater,” Anand said. Class trips clearly have the potential to be stressful in terms of coordination and organization, but it makes the experience all the more worth it. “It was a great experience because, not only was this my first-ever Broadway show, but it also gave me a visual for one of the plays we read in class,” Anand added. 

Doubt is not the only Broadway excursion Stuyvesant students have made together. “[Social studies teacher Robert] Sandler took us on a trip to see Harmony on Broadway. We got seats all the way in the back row, but some Sandler kids were sitting in the box seats, which was really cool,” junior Rachel Alvarez recalled. Indeed, going to see shows as a class can create a unique experience that wouldn’t have otherwise been made possible through a single student’s initiative. “Afterwards, I got to go to the stage door and get autographs from everyone and [take] a photo with Julie Benko! Also, it was free!” Alvarez said. It’s important to note that class trips require an outsized amount of time and effort on the part of teachers beyond the notable amount of forms that need to be administered. Teachers across Stuyvesant are always looking for ways to provide free resources for their students—for example, through the connections they have outside of school. 

Needless to mention, class trips are undoubtedly educational. Looking back on her experience watching Eisenhower—another show Sandler made possible for his class to see—junior Mirei Ueyama said, “I thought the show was really powerful because I’ve never seen a one-man show before, and it was a great format to show the regret Eisenhower went through during his presidency. I honestly started tearing up at the end.” Additionally, students are often self-motivated to attend class trips when the opportunity arises. Ueyama added, “Though the Eisenhower show came with extra credit, Harmony didn’t. So it was super clear that the Stuy kids who were there just wanted to see the amazing show and learn more about history.”

Science classes at Stuyvesant also include educational trips. For instance, Urban Ecology is an elective taught by biology teacher Marissa Maggio where students go on several trips to enrich the course’s content. "There was a bus trip to a wastewater treatment plant in Yonkers. We also went to collect samples [from the Hudson River]. That was pretty closely related to the materials we were being taught,” junior Elias Xu said. “There was also a walking tour about drinking water and New York City history. We went to the Tenement Museum, and we also tried some dumplings. It wasn’t exactly the material we learned in class but [instead] learning through the real world.”

For science classes, trips can be educational for students through hands-on lab experience. For example, every year the freshman AP Biology students take a trip to the DNA Learning Center. “The cool part everyone enjoyed was doing bio technique. We got to isolate our DNA, we did PCR, and sequencing as well. And we also got to plug it into some databases [that tell us our ancestry]," junior Aeneas Merchant reminisced. “You cannot do the stuff we did on the trip on a regular day of school. It really isn't comparable [to class].”

Learning about the world outside of school by exploring for themselves is something high school students discover to be enlightening. Sophomore Amanda Greenberg experienced this in her freshman year, during her first and only class trip at Stuyvesant, where her biology class went to the American Museum of Natural History. “What I liked about it was having a chance to not be cramped at a desk, taking notes. I like the idea of learning things as you go, like field learning. I felt like I got more knowledge from that than from sitting and listening to a teacher lecture,” Greenberg described. “They had this giant sculpture of a whale, and when you see something like that, in person, it’s going to make it a more enjoyable experience for you [compared to being in a classroom].”

Regardless of the destination or the content, all class trips at Stuyvesant are great experiences for students. For junior Jubaida Shahriar, who went on her first class trip through her genetics class this year with biology teacher Dr. Maria Nedwidek‑Moore, learning on class trips in high school is more conducive to learning than in middle school. “I felt that in middle school, trips were always a mess, someone was puking, [and] a lot of different things were going on. But you could definitely see the maturity level in Stuyvesant when we go outside,” Shahriar said. “We got to use the subway, so no one got motion sick, and it was just really easy. I really enjoyed the opportunity to be with my classmates outside Stuyvesant, and just learn in a more real-life setting.”

A crucial part of the experience of going on a class trip is being with classmates in new environments. “I got to sit with my friends and talk during intermission,” Alvarez said. “This was around the time second semester schedules came out, so we were all talking about it during intermission. I got to talk with people I don’t usually see very often or talk to anymore.” 

Although class trips have many perks, many students unfortunately never get the opportunity to experience them. Senior Zelia Ryan-Young has had an intensive experience as part of the dance community at Stuyvesant, but hasn’t yet had the opportunity to go on a class trip. “Semi-unrealistic,” Ryan-Young said. “But if the ballroom gym class got to go to a short amateur ballroom competition, I would’ve been very happy.” 

As a result, students end up taking remarkable amounts of initiative after school to find opportunities for trips. Junior Muna Faruqi leads StuyCanvas, one of Stuyvesant’s art initiatives, and has considered taking members to Pace Gallery and other nearby galleries in Chelsea. “On every street, there’s a gallery of some sort, and it’s a nice walk. And yeah, they’re all free,” Faruqi explained. As a consequence of the lack of frequency of class trips, students might be encouraged to lead their own.

For teachers, the process of organizing a trip is surprisingly straightforward. “The trip has to have an educational focus [and] the principal has to approve. The PA supports with money, not approval, but the PA supports a lot,” Maggio explained in an email interview. 

This is not to say that organizing a class trip comes without challenges. Most trips only happen because teachers have personal connections with the places they’re taking students on trips to. Sandler, for instance, was able to arrange the trip to see Harmony due to his connections with specific synagogues and a Broadway producer. Likewise, Maggio has connections with the wastewater treatment plant she took Urban Ecology students on a trip to. “I actually went on the trip as a teacher for professional development. Chatted up the head engineer. When he said he did trips for schools as well I jumped at the chance to bring kids,” Maggio explained.       

Trips may cause school scheduling problems for students as well, and students may decline going on trips to prioritize their academic needs. Junior Jospehine Gunawan said, “If [a trip] happened during a day that I had a test, then I wouldn't sacrifice that. But they're really great opportunities. If you have good time management skills, you can definitely make time for trips.”

Despite the challenges with scheduling class trips, there truly is a place for these experiences in Stuyvesant students’ hearts. Beyond bringing friends together in new settings and resonating with people interested in seeing shows, “A class trip has the potential to be helpful in any class. Even for math classes, students could go on trips to math museums or to places where the subject is used in a professional setting,” Anand mentioned.