Making Middle School Relevant Through Self Reflection

middle schoolers playing with synthesizers

There is no question that field trips offer wonderful educational opportunities.  Being able to interact with professionals doing actual work allows students to see the real world applications of what they learn in the classroom. They become inspired and see actual evidence of what they can achieve if they work hard and apply themselves. A lot of the learning that occurs on these field trips happens when students are asked to reflect on their experiences.

In Their Own Words…

Every year during their 18 day field trips, the middle schoolers of Arthur Morgan School create a blog, documenting their trip. The students post pictures and write about what they did each day. They get to choose what moments they want to highlight and show off to their parents and friends at home.  The blog is an awesome opportunity to reflect on what they are learning and articulate their feelings about their journey. 

Middle schoolers posing with a robot Right now the Robotics Field Trip is heading up the east coast visiting universities, labs, and factories.  They are only on day three of their trip, but already they have had some amazing experiences.  In their own words, here what our students have to say about the trip so far!

Day 1

Today we left AMS at 9:30 on our way to Asheville. Our original plan was to go see a high school robotics team but they cancelled so instead we went to Moog. Moog has been around since the early 1900s. Moog is entirely based in Asheville where they do everything from design to marketing and even assembly in two buildings. We got to play with some synths, see people making the synthesizers, and learn about the history of the company. It was pretty cool. Being able to play with the synthesizers was especially interesting. We got to see a small team of people working on a modular system which takes them up to 1,000 hours of work time to make and is made from mostly old components that are hard to source. One of these systems can cost as much as a house. After leaving Moog we went to the Asheville Botanical Gardens to eat lunch. Now we are staying at a former student’s house in Durham for the night.

— Ian, 9th grade

Day 2

This morning it took me a half hour to wake up, then we had Annie’s homemade banana bread for breakfast. We packed up the transit, cleaned up Ann’s house, and headed to Duke University.

At the university, we saw some cool robots. There was a weird one that could climb a rock climbing wall. I saw a few others including one that was named Baxter. Baxter can be taught to do certain activities, like pick things up. You help it to learn the action by moving its arm. Then we saw a bunch of 3-D printers. They were amazing and printing some really cool stuff. I got myself a souvenir from the recycling there that looks like a sunflower or a settings icon. Then we were in the car for 7 hours (oof).

Now we’re in Baltimore at Homewood Friends. There is barely any snow on the ground. The meeting house is very big and like 98 years old. It’s pretty nice. It was kind of a boring afternoon, but all the people we’ve met so far have been very nice. And I like potato chips. Food is good!

—Jacob, 7th grade

Day 3

middle schoolers looking at a robotToday we went to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore where we were able to tour three mechanical engineering labs. The first one we went to had a two million dollar machine made for minimally invasive abdomen surgery called the Da Vinci. They allowed us to try out the machine by moving rings around a small petri dish. To control the two tiny claws you stuck your thumb and middle finger into two rings on the controller. If you squeezed the rings together it closed the claws and if you moved your wrist and arms around the tiny claw and arm mirrored your movements exactly.

The second lab made augmented reality devices and technology to help students learn anatomy and muscle groups. In the third lab we learned about marine ROVs (remotely operated vehicle), and got to control one around their 25 foot deep testing tank. Seeing these machines in real life helped me understand the significance of them. I had heard about them before, but interacting with them made me realize their real-world importance.

Now we’re at the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting in Philadelphia. The meeting house is very modern and clean.

And I quote this from Ian “I keep thinking that the things we’re doing on this trip aren’t going to be cool, but then they’re REALLY cool.”

-Haven, 9th grader