More Than a ‘Field Trip’: The Lincoln Center Expands Minds and Relationships on a Trip to Washington, D.C.

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The U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
Image via The Lincoln Center for Family and Youth.

Transformational learning does not happen by accident. Students need opportunities to break outside of their familiar surroundings and experience the unfamiliar with open minds.

These guided “pattern interrupts” help meaningfully connect the dots so students can see and understand the world around them in deepening ways.

The experienced world of students whose families face poverty tends to be confined and insular. Limited resources can cause a hindrance in their development by confining the range of experiences and restrict access to opportunities that create these meaningful connections.

For such students, field trips are a lifeline to discovering new worlds, stimulating their curiosity, and helping what can sometimes be boring classroom material, come alive and resonate personally like never before.

The Transformative Power of Unfamiliar Adventure

TLC Leadership Academy students embodied this phenomenon of transformation on a recent trip to Washington, D.C.

On May 12, 2022, TLC Leadership Academy students embarked on a full day excursion to visit the museums and monuments at our nation’s capital.

The excitement was palpable as the students boarded two large buses. For many students who had never left their hometowns, this was a life-changing opportunity to experience a world outside of Eastern Pennsylvania.

A Field Trip Makes Learning Personal and Authentic

Recognizing that a field trip’s power to transform relies on students’ safe and authentic engagement, The Lincoln Center partnered students in groups of 2-3 with selected staff members.

These small groups had the freedom to choose where they wanted to go for the day. This format validated students’ autonomy and helped keep the trip focused within each group’s zone of interests.

Some students chose to visit the monuments, while others leaned toward the Natural History Museum or the African Art Museum.

These small group adventures made the field trip deeply personal. Students explored D.C. and learned more about our nation’s history in a way that resonated with and connected to their own stories and interests. Most significantly, the full day of exploration in small, focused groups enabled students who had not ventured beyond the borders of their home counties to see a world outside of their hometowns.

Field Trip Ripple Effect

For students who participated, the transformation that began on this field trip took on a life of its own.

The following day, students returned to school and shared stories of flight simulators, animals at the Natural History Museum, and art at the various Smithsonian museums.

While the trip dynamically exposed students to history and art, the deeper gift was that this trip allowed students to establish connections with each other and with staff outside school walls.

It helped awaken them to the reality of the vastness of the world around them and the countless opportunities that comes with that. Exposure to new landscapes, cultures, people, and sites in a safe, personalized format opened the minds of TLC’s students and helped cultivate meaningful relationships with the staff members and peers.  

These bonds went on to develop strong in-school connections with each other and staff members well beyond the time on the trip.

Increasingly, more and more schools are opting out of field trips, making these unique experiences less common, due to various constraints and pressures placed on educational institutions.

But done well, “field trips enrich and expand the curriculum, …[immerse] children into sensory activities, increase children’s knowledge…and expand children’s awareness of their own community.” 

That is why The Lincoln Center makes experiential learning activities, such as field trips, a priority, to facilitate transformational education.

Transformational Education strives to stimulate students’ curiosity and create these opportunities to explore new ways to make invaluable learning opportunities that carry beyond the field trip and classroom.

About TLC

The Lincoln Center for Family and Youth (TLC) is a social enterprise company serving the Greater Philadelphia Area.

Founded in 1970 by a behavioral health hospital, TLC is an entrepreneurial nonprofit providing innovative education, coaching, and counseling services to individuals and families, as well as grant writing and management services for school districts and universities.

TLC’s mission is to promote positive choices and cultivate meaningful connections through education, counseling, coaching, and consulting. Its vision is to transform lives and communities – one moment, one choice, one connection at a time.

To learn more, visit TheLincolnCenter.com

About the Authors

Michael Venzke, M.Ed. is the Associate Director of TLC Leadership Academy, a licensed and accredited private school in Audubon, serving students in grades 7-12. 

TLC Leadership Academy provides alternative education placement for students who need additional social, emotional, and mental health support.

Like Venzke, the team at the Academy maintain a focus on high academic standards in a safe, small school setting that supports every aspect of students’ academic and social-emotional learning needs with an emphasis on leadership development and social skills development.

MaryJo Burchard (Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership) is co-founder and principal of Concord Solutions, a Virginia-based consultancy firm focused on helping leaders and organizations thrive while facing major disruption. Concord Solutions offers consulting, coaching, training, research, and keynote speaking surrounding trauma-informed leadership, and assessing and building change readiness, trust, and belonging.

To learn more, visit ConcordLeader.com

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