I work for a school where about 80% of our families live below the poverty level. This affects the amount of experiences they come to school with. When I was getting certified I observed at a school where they had less than 10% of students who qualified for free/reduced lunch. They are in a very affluent area of town. It was amazing the experiences some of these students had. The teacher had them make protest posters and one of the 3rd Graders was talking to her friend about what she saw when the family visited the Taj Mahal that previous summer! I have never even been to the Taj Mahal, but some of these students had the luxury of traveling to places like that and that became the experience they drew from to do their activities.
My first year teaching I was making a connection to something at the beach-when I realized over half my class had never been to the beach. We have Galveston about 2 1/2 hours away, but for those who rely on public transportation-that's not a reality for them. I fight for field lessons for my students that will help develop the schema of those experiences. We went to a farm last week. I loved hearing all the comments-"Miss Trayers I never pet a goat before", "Miss Trayers this is what hay feels like? I have never touched hay before". (I did have to laugh at the amount of hand sanitizer the parents went through though :).
I grew up out in the country. I very distinctly remember going with my aunt to New York City and seeing a little pop-up petting zoo in Central Park. The kids were ooohing and aaahing over chickens and rabbits. I was like "this is it?!". Even driving to the zoo we are outside our big city and see things like horses and cows on farms-the kids were going nuts on the bus. "Look at all the cows-are we in Cowland?".
So as much as I think it's fun to take kids to the zoo or the aquarium-I do think those are experiences they get with their families. I like to take them to plays, to tour our local community-post office/bank/library, to tour a local baseball park. And even though it's about an hour drive on the bus--to a real-life farm. I want to give them the opportunity to develop their schema. We do a lot of virtual field trips and web cams as well. You know Scholastic has a pretty cool virtual field trip on the Mayflower right now-it's a little long for my babies, but certainly gives them an idea of what it was like to ride on a ship.
They like it too-just look at the curiosity: