Monday, June 6, 2016

What are the benefits of a service-learning field trip?

Service-learning is a teaching method that combines service to the community using classroom curriculum. It is more than merely community service but rather a hands-on approach to mastering subject material while fostering responsibility within a society. Service-learning provides a context for talking about learning in terms of not only what students know but also what they are able to do. Participating in service allows students to use their gifts to benefit the world, which in-turn benefits themselves and their understanding of the greater purpose in their lives. Service-learning based field trips come in all forms and sizes. From half-day drives to a national park to a camping trip out of the city, field trips present a way for teachers to approach knowledge in a completely new way and for kids to have fun while learning.
Field trips give children a chance to experience hands-on learning while also being introduced to new environments. Stepping out of the classroom wards of boredom in the classroom and provides students with challenges that allow for more individualized learning while classroom teaching is often generalized and many times targeted to the slowest learners in the group. During field trips, kids have a chance to go the extra step and take on as much information as they want and can.
The distinctive element of service-learning is that it enhances the community through the service provided while resulting in a powerful learning experience
for others participating in providing a service. Service-learning is growing so rapidly because we can see its powerful impact on young people
and their development. Whatever the setting, the core element of
service-learning is always the intent that both providers and recipients find the experience beneficial, even transforming while linking to academic content and standards.
Field trips allow kids to get to know each other and interact in a more relaxed environment, without the pressure of grades or the constraints of the classroom. Field trips are a great way to cement difficult information. Historical facts, biology knowledge or even physics and chemistry can be experienced first-hand during a field trip.
Experts believe there are different methods of learning, including visual, auditory and tactile. Students who learn better through doing will greatly benefit from field trips, where the senses come into play a lot more than they would ever do in a classroom. Depending on the type of field trip, teachers can take advantage of this by allowing kids to not only observe but have a first hand experience and play a role in the lives of others. While tests and classroom education may work more effectively for some kids over others, field trips place everybody on an equal playing field. Studies prove using the hands-on method of teaching provides students with a greater learning experience rather than merely having it taught to them. Field trips can also be a great way to provide interaction among subjects. For example, a trip to a local nature center could be used to explore the flora and fauna, practice concepts learned in physics and mathematics, used to jump-start writing topics or made into a history and geography lesson.
Critical to this type of learning is building in time for students to reflect on their service experience. Reflection time helps students make the connection between classroom and community learning, and ensures they understand the extent to which they can impact positive change.
For more information or to make a difference through a service learning program, sign up for an educational tour, call Appleseed at (877) 889-7150 or visit

Discovering Your Global Cause

Although I've had the privilege of circling the globe 3 times and making several short-term trips across the sea... it still took me many years to find my purpose in it all.  Perhaps my story might help you on your journey as you begin to peal back the layers of this world to see its deepest needs revealed and search for your own personal way to be a part of the solution.  A humbling start would be to recognize that a) you do not have all the answers b) you cannot save the world and c) to take it one day at a time/ one person at a time. Let me explain:  I initially took it into my own hands to make the world a better place because I assumed no one else was willing.  What I thought was heroic was actually quite arrogant.  Don't get me wrong, it's ok to be compassionate and willing.... but I tragically began to think that I was the answer to their problems therefore deserving much credit and praise for rescuing the world from issues that have been around since the beginning of time.  So, instead of "saving mankind" I was only hurting it by feeding my ego and taking up more space with my head.  Not until recently did I realize these hidden motives.

Towards the end of last year I vividly remember speaking with one of my mentors as I expressed such sadness for all of the pain in the world and how I just wanted to fix it all.  Through the tears and snotty mess they gently pointed out that perhaps I was carrying the burden of the world on my shoulders.  After wrestling with this thought for many days, I began to see the truth in it all.  And at first, it was not pretty.  I had assumed from the very beginning of my "missions" that it was MY responsibility or  "global cause" to save the world from it's problems.  With that, and the many I saw with problems I couldn’t fix... I began to carry a huge burden of sadness, guilt, disappointment, and anger. Now that was a definite wake-up call! 

Finally, I truly understood what it meant to have a “Global Cause”!  It was never really about me, and once I began to see that… I was able to rest in my talents, capabilities and the timing of it all.  I finally saw that it really was about one person at a time, no matter where I was in the world!   My purpose in it all was to be a transporter.  I was a vessel of love, hope, kindness, joy, peace, faith, etc.  I was meant to be there in the moment with people... to give them a true hope for a better tomorrow, laugh with them, cry with them, share what I had to give, and to give them something to believe it.  So now, instead of feeling the pressure and weight of the world on my shoulders I focus on the one standing right in front of me and ask myself... "How can I love/serve this person best right here, right now?" 

One of the most vivid memories was when my YWAM (Youth With A Mission) team traveled to northern India in 2009.  We found ourselves in a little village in the boonies looking very different from those who occupied the land.  One woman I met must've been approaching 100, or at least her skin said so.  This woman was so gentle, beautiful and delicate.  Although she had been blind most of her life, we formed an unlikely bond.  I clearly remember spending many hours praying for her sight to return.  I held her hand tightly through the church services and meals.  Even though her sight didn't improve too significantly, I had a complete peace that she knew in those moments that she was loved like she had never been loved before.  So even though God did not heal her eyes, I knew He was healing her heart.  One night as she was squeezing my hand in the back of the tiny church, I knew there was no where else on earth I was meant to be than right there right then with this beautifully aged soul.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tips for a Successful Middle School Field Trip

Though Field Trips are an extremely rewarding experience, teachers may find the process a bit intimidating. In order to combat this feeling, it is imperative that preparation takes place, and that all possible issues are discussed prior to the trip itself. The potential challenge with a field trip is that it can be a disastrous event filled with chaos, disorganization, and poor student behavior. Though field trips come with risks, teaching itself is often full of risks, and the field trip is a worthy project to take on if teachers want to make the learning experience richer and more vibrant. However, in order to be successful, there are some aspects to consider.

You need to understand the environment of your destination. Before heading out to a field trip, the teacher should understand where they are going. While you can receive a great deal of knowledge through brochures, phone calls, and websites, it is wise to make a site visit, especially if you have not ventured to the location before. This gives you the opportunity to envision what things might look like when a large group of students are present, and take note of potential problems.

A field trip should be planned with as much detail as possible. Middle school students can be notoriously energetic, and if they are given free time in an environment outside of school, it can turn into a chaotic situation. Therefore, teachers should do their best to create an exact timetable of where everyone needs to be so that there is minimal downtime. Teachers should still build in time for traffic, delays, and unforeseen cancellations.

Field trips can be carefully planned, but teachers should assume that there might be some problems. The teacher doesn't have to be paranoid, but it is better to be prepared than be surprised. Teachers should have emergency numbers handy, and they should have plans to deal with sickness, injuries, lost students, discipline issues, and weather.

The field trip is intended to be an educational experience, and teachers have to keep to the schedule. However, the teacher should also build in enough breaks so that students are able to relax a bit, use the bathroom, and explore on their own. Breaks should be managed carefully because middle school students can quickly get bored or get into mischief if they are given too much freedom.

Finally, you should do your best to get as much help as possible whether it be in the form of other teachers, administrators, or parents. When it comes to managing a group of middle school students, crowd control is a major factor. Chaperones attending the trip should be given instruction so they can be effective at helping the teacher manage.

Do you have further questions before planning a field trip on your own? Do you have a desire to partner with Appleseed Expeditions? Through education, service, and adventure groups are able to receive a well-rounded trip full of learning, inspiration, and fun!  For more information or to sign up for an educational tour, call us at (877) 889-7150 or visit

Monday, August 8, 2011

School trips to Costa Rica; Travel Safety and Security Tips while traveling

Here are a few simple steps that will provide added security while traveling to Costa Rica with a school group.

Step 1: You've chosen your trip to Costa Rica. Now let's research the web to see what information we can learn about the nation's history, language, culture and weather. Why? Let’s say that during your planning you discovered that it is culturally insensitive for female travelers to be seen in public wearing shorts.  In many countries wearing shorts means that you are single and looking for male companionship.  A good resource for this information can be found at Central America Etiquette

Next, you check the websites of foreign ministries to see what travel planning tips and information are available on the crime and security situation within Costa Rica.  A good resource can be found at State Dept. Info

Step 2: Let’s do some travel planning about what to pack. You should use the information you found on the web about culture and weather to choose the appropriate travel clothing. Also, don’t forget to pack extra medications that you need on a regular basis. This is especially important if you are a traveling with students.  Some students are more concerned with appearance rather than clothing that is appropriate for varied weather conditions.  Costa Rica has twelve different micro-climates from the cool mountains to the very warm coastal areas. Therefore, students will need to pack for both cool weather and tropical climates.  Below you will also see an attached suggested packing list for your students. After you're all packed and have everything you need, be sure to secure your baggage with travel security locks.  If students are carrying back packs, make sure they keep their valuables deep inside their pack.  Pickpocketing is common in Costa Rica, and many people lose their valuables because they leave them in easily accessible outer pockets of their bags.

Step 3: Make sure you arrive at your departure airport with at least three hours to spare.  Going through security is time-consuming, and takes more time than usual when traveling with a group. However, you must understand that these security precautions are necessary to ensure the safety of all travelers. Also, since you arrived early, you can avoid being rushed, and therefore lessen the chance of theft of your laptop computer or other items while going through airport screening.  

Step 4: While seated on the plane, think about situations which could occur.  Many foreigners will work in partnership with people in Costa Rica.  Make sure your students are vigilant about with whom they share information.  Have your students keep hotel information and other details of the trip private.  This in precaution will help keep your group from being targeted.  It is important to be aware that Costa Rica does not have an issue with violent crime, but theft is always a concern.

Step 5 : When deciding on a student tour company, remember to find the right balance between budget and safety. The cheapest tour company is not always the safest.  Many student tour companies do not offer full-time hotel security or a full-time guide.  Some inexpensive companies offer a guided tour in the morning, and then free time in the afternoon.  While this may sound nice on its face value, knowing that your group will be left without a guide the rest of the day and evening can be precarious in a foreign country.

Step 6: Be wary of public transportation while in a foreign country. Often, criminals frequent public transportation hubs to victimize foreigners.  If your tour company is picking your group up at the airport, make sure that you have the contact information of your guide, bus driver, and hotel.  Once you arrive to the San Jose airport, you will want to look for your guide.  If you cannot find your guide, make sure you take your entire group to the right of the exit door near the pay phones.  Have your group wait there while you make change for the public phones.  If your guide and bus driver do not answer the phone, call the hotel and let them know your group is taking taxis to the hotel.  Please note: Only take the red taxis that are authorized by the airport officials.

Step 7: Be vigilant over your group’s luggage.  Put a chaperone in charge of monitoring the group’s luggage when loading and unloading your bus.  A chaperone can follow the group from behind, and watch over luggage as you exit the airport and hotels.  This will ensure that people will not target your student’s luggage or valuables.

Step 8: Make sure that your tour company offers security at your hotel.  In light of the tragedy that happened to a student last May in Costa Rica by another hotel's security personnel, it is important that your tour group arranges private security specific to your group.  Make sure that your tour company hires a security guard that enforces the curfew set by the trip leaders.  Additionally, make sure that the tour company hires a security guard that can communicate with your trip leaders about schedules, curfews, and rules established by your school or trip leaders.

Step 9: Check on the tour company references.   Have the tour company give you a list of references that have previously traveled with them.  When contacting these references, ask them about accommodations and security. Does the company mix groups? Be sure to ask them if they would ever travel with this company again.

Step 10: Get a list of all the hotels and accommodations that the tour company is using.  After getting the names of the hotels, research the hotels on Trip Advisor. This review site will give you up-to-date reviews from people who have stayed at these same hotels within the last six months.  

If you have additional questions, feel free to contact Appleseed Expeditions.  You can email us at,  or go to our website at  Appleseed Expeditions  ( We can also arrange a great, safe student trip for your school to Costa Rica.

Recommended packing list for your students:
• Binoculars, Camera, and Film
• Costa Rica Guide Book (we recommend “Costa Rica Handbook” by Christopher P. Baker).
• Sunscreen and insect repellent
• Light, cool clothing—cotton or light synthetic. At least one pair of pants for insect protection and dressier occasions.
• Light jacket or sweater
• Footwear- waterproof lightweight hiking boots, river sandals (Teva-type sandals) and comfortable walking shoes
• Hat for sun protection
• Plastic water bottle for hikes
• Flashlight with spare batteries and bulb for night hikes
• Medication and travel sickness medication if necessary
• Small day pack or fanny pack for hikes
• Plastic garbage bags for wet items
• Swimwear

Appleseed Expeditions provides educational trips for schools that incorporate learning, adventure and service. Students learn about fragile ecosystems, experience new cultures and volunteer at orphanages and wildlife rescue centers.  Appleseed Expeditions  (

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Planning a Florida Keys Science Trip: What Should I Expect?

I've had the amazing honor and privilege of leading several Appleseed Expeditions school science trips down to the Florida Keys. Every single time, I got way more than I bargained for... in the best way possible!  Even if you set your expectations high for this trip, I believe you will still be blown away.  Not only is there so much to learn, see, and do; but the bond cultivated out of a community doing those things together is priceless.  I've seen many go on this trip for a little break, and go home feeling inspired and ready to get even more out of life. 

As a parent or teacher, it's important to be prepared in many ways.  "Tending of the sheep" is such a crucial role you play as you place them in the loving hands of the AE staff.  It's equally as important to always find ways to support and encourage each other, and the students along the way.  So as the young minds soak up all of the knowledge, and their hands experience it first-hand... their hearts can't help but become full.  Expect everyone to come back with a new energy and love for learning.


Some of the things you will experience on this trip are:  

1. Discovering the fragile ecosystems and the marine biodiversity of the Florida barrier reef
The students will get an up-close and personal look as we snorkel through the reef, and kayak through the mangroves.  Every time I go I am shocked by the damage that's been done thus far, but encouraged by the sense of hope you'll see in each living thing that calls this place home.  You might expect to see stingrays, small nurse sharks, and a variety of other shallow bay inhabitants on this adventure. We will collect a variety invertebrates, fish, crabs, sponges, and calcareous algae. Then we'll discuss ecological niches, and how each organism aids in the balance of this fragile ecosystem.
2. Learning about how the reef provides habitat to an abundance of tropical marine organisms
The students will  conduct a hands-on study of nocturnal marine life with a night wade in the coastal bay area of Islamorada.  This activity is a blast!  Everyone loves taking their little flash lights and discovering all sorts of creatures in the dark.  It especially gets fun when the boys start competing to find the weirdest looking organism.

 3. Assisting with mentoring programs to communities in need
The group will be able to spend some time with migrant children through game activities at the RCMA center.  This is one of my favorite things we do because we get to see how our love and service to them does make a difference in their lives.  Sometimes all they need to succeed is for someone to give them a sense of value and worth.

4. Exploring natural habitats
The group will also travel to the back country bay lagoon where they will study mangroves, collect sponges for dissection, and dissect squid and sharks.  Here we will analyze the coral inhabitant nursery system, and the morphology of chondrichthyes in order to understand how predator/ prey relationships impact the reef ecosystem.

5. Actively discovering history
The History of the Florida Keys is best discovered as we kayak to and explore Indian Key.   The doctor who inhabited this island was massacred by Seminole Indians in the late 1800’s.  Additionally, we will study the marine fossils and intertidal habitats on this island.

We hope you enjoy your trip fully, and that every single person drives away from Florida inspired to teach others what you've learned here. Please feel free to contact Appleseed Expeditions for more information, or go to our educational science trip page at Appleseed Science Trips.