Field Trips Offer Many Middle School Firsts

two middle schoolers sitting on a bus

The buses are packed and their engines running. The students run back and forth filling water bottles and grabbing forgotten items as staff go over the last minute details of their itinerary. Finally everyone climbs aboard. The doors shut and they are on their way. You can hear the excitement bursting through the windows as they drive off, their adventure just beginning. Most, if not all, of our students have gone on field trips before, but this isn’t any ordinary field trip.  Arthur Morgan School’s 18 Day Field Trips are an entirely unique experience. Students will travel across the country meeting professionals and experiencing the real world. While on them, we hope our students experience many new middle school firsts.

Middle School Firsts

Middle school is known for offering a lot of firsts. Students get their first locker. They switch classes for the first time. It is the first time they listen for bells or need to navigate lunch room politics. In middle school, students are pushed outside of their comfort zone and need to adjust to changing expectations. As parents and educators, we hope these firsts will be empowering. We want our students to mature and feel ready for the new responsibilities being asked of them.  As they do, they recognize their ability to take care of themselves and be more independent.

middle schoolers talking to an artistOn our 18 Day Field Trips, students experience a very different set of middle school firsts. For some students, this might be the first time they travel to a new state. Many of them have never interacted with professionals in their place of businesses before. On these trips, they will take tours of hospitals, factories, and historical landmarks. They will interview people and hear about their real life experiences in a way standard field trips don’t offer. The 18 day trips are designed to expose students to new places and people giving them with a deeper understanding of how the world works.  

Other Firsts

However, that won’t be the only firsts these middle schoolers experience. On these trips, students aren’t just passengers. They are responsible for taking care of themselves and their trips’ needs. They are an integral part of everyday activities like cooking and packing the trailers. For many students these trips are the first time they will be away from their parents for so long, the first time they budget their money to purchase snacks on the road, and the first time they do their own laundry. Student also are responsible for checking their vehicle’s fluids and pumping its gas. These moments are wonderful opportunities for them to develop real life skills that they will use throughout their lives.

One more first for many of our middle schoolers is the practice of documenting their trip.  Each day a student takes on the responsibility of writing a post about what their group did that day.  We publish these posts on a Facebook group that we create specifically for each field trip.  Yesterday, three seventh graders experienced their first day of 18 days. Gil from the Birth, Death and Medicine trip met with organizations that assist people in home funerals and green burials.  Ezzy, from the Philosophy trip, visited a old high school that has been renovated into various art spaces. And Brayden from the Forced Migrations trip spoke with a Cherokee man about the Trail of Tears. Here are excerpts from these students’ reflections of this middle school first:

middle schoolers talking to someone about green burials

Birth Death and Medicine Trip 

First day of 18 Days!! We were all so excited to start off our 18 Day trip. We started our day with a 1 hour drive to Asheville to visit the Center for End of Life Transitions organization that focuses on helping more people do home funerals. Then we traveled to the Carolina Memorial Sanctuary, took a nice stroll through the park learning about green burials and seeing all the graves.

After that it was off to Trader Joe’s for a snack stop, and then to Staples to print our zines. Finally, we drove to the Asheville Friends Meeting to end our day and rest for the night. It‘s super welcoming and homey and they have a beautiful library. The meeting room is very large, big enough to accommodate all of us. It feels like everyone’s energized and slightly anxious to be going on this super long trip, learning about Birth, Death, and Medicine!


middle schoolers talking to a potter

Philosophy Trip

We started the day at AMS, packing last-minute gear and other things. By about 9:30, we were on the road. We stopped for our first vending stop after about ten minutes but were quickly on the road again. From there, we drove for about 45 minutes to a small town called Marshall where we visited an old high school now turned into artists’ studios. At Marshall High Studios, we met up with Rob Pulleyn, a long-AMS board member and friend. Rob helped to found the studios, and he arranged for us to tour several of them. He would happily act as our tour guide for the day (and allow us to stay at his guest house overnight!).

We began by visiting Rob’s ceramics studio. He explained to us that he hadn’t gotten into ceramics until he was older, though he now really enjoys making things. As a potter, he doesn’t use a wheel; he prefers to use his own hands. He talked to us about “flow”—the experience of doing activities that you really enjoy rather than activities you’re just told to do. Rob said that be would never call himself an artist, which felt sad to me because he was doing pretty cool stuff, and it was art….

As a first-year student, I thought this was a good first day of 18-days. We’ll follow up today’s experience with a philosophy discussion tomorrow, in which questions about art might be unpacked!


middle schooler looking at a display about Trail of TearsForced Migrations Trip

On our first day we went to a museum and watched and read stuff about the history of the Native American Cherokee. Then we went to meet a guy who showed us where the Cherokee walked the trail of tears. This guy was named Tom and he was also Cherokee. He talked about how white people were racist to the Cherokee. Then our transit got stuck in the mud. I got really excited when the tow truck came. It took along time and we waited in the rain. We finally got out of there and made it to Knoxville pretty late. We stayed at a friends of Brads. They were nice and great. They gave us all Girl Scout cookies.

The students will continue to post pictures and document their adventures throughout their trips. Stories From the Middle will share some of their experiences, but if you would like follow along in more detail, ask to join one of their Facebook groups-or all three:

Birth Death and Medicine
Forced Migrations

-Nicholas Maldonado