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Give the students something to do, not something to learn.

“Give the students something to do, not something to learn;
and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.”
– John Dewey

Today, the Middle and High School students will return from the Cultural Trips. While they have been away, half of the campus has been quiet. The other half (the Elementary half) has been as boisterous as normal.

When our family arrived in Sofia, our oldest son was in grade 6. Coming from a public school system in the U.S., he had experienced field trips, but they were short partial day trips around the Seattle area (good trips nonetheless). I must admit that he and we (his parents) felt a bit of trepidation with him heading off for a multi-day trip in a country that was new to us. It ended up being a great experience for him: an experience that he still talks about 10 years later. Since that time, he experienced more Cultural Trips, as have our other two kids. Each trip has resulted in fond memories and good stories. Of course not everything was roses on the trips, but those non-rosie-challenges were important to experience, and now they are some of the best stories.

Cultural Trips and field trips in general are more–much more–than just fun experiences. They are a form of experiential education, which is a powerful way to learn. While we can all learn in the classroom, we learn more deeply through experiences. This is why educators work to bring authentic experiences into the classroom; it is why Cultural Trips are a core part of the curriculum.

In addition to academic learning, Cultural Trips push students out of their comfort zones. As parents and educators, we walk the line of wanting children to feel comfortable and safe, while at the same time nudging them to extend their comfort zones. When children step outside of their comfort zones and find that they are ok, that they are successful, it builds confidence and resilience. Confidence to try new things and resilience to know that they will be ok in facing challenges, are essential skills as our young people grow into independent adults.

Through Cultural Trips, children also build stronger relationships with other students and their teacher-chaperones. The importance of this should not be underestimated. Across the world, schools and school systems are seeing a dramatic increase in mental health and behavioral issues. More and more research is pointing to the pandemic as the leading cause of these issues. Through the pandemic, children were often isolated from other children and adults. At the time, it seemed there was no alternative, but we are now experiencing how damaging that isolation was during some formative years. Children learn best when they feel connected to others–when they have positive relationships. Cultural Trips are a powerfully effective way for young people to foster those relationships.

While this is about Cultural Trips, the same is true for PreKindergarten walks through the forest, Elementary school trips to downtown Sofia, Plovdiv, or what have you.

I have been following the daily updates of the Cultural Trips. As we head into a long weekend (perfect for a trip to the beach), I look forward to hearing the stories of this year’s Trips.


“I never teach my pupils, I only provide the conditions in which they learn.”
– Albert Einstein

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