Two Trips Forward and One Trip Back

Are we finally ready to bring back field trips?

As field trips are making their slow comeback after COVID-19, Mrs.Pamela McCarthy, Upper School Director, described the process of planning and executing each year’s trips.

“[For] the class field trips, the content field trips, I get a note, a teacher’s request to do it,” she explained. Mrs. McCarthy added that the teachers “work with Mr. Cao to make sure that there’s nothing… on the calendar.”

Upper School English teacher, current junior team leader and former senior team leader Ms. Marilee Malott provided insight on her responsibility in planning and executing grade-wide field trips.

As the 2019-2020 senior team leader in charge of the trip to nowhere, Ms. Malott said she “had a lot of discretion [with] what the event would look like, what activities [they] would do [and] an overarching goal for the event.”

As the new junior team leader this year, Ms. Malott thinks the junior retreat is “incredibly significant. The retreat really focuses on the idea of leadership and sort of stepping from junior year and … casting a vision for [the juniors’] role as leaders senior year.”

When comparing the junior retreat to her 21 years of teaching at multiple schools, Ms. Malott said she had “never seen a school, other than this one, that gives students so much voice, and at least an opportunity to ask for change.”

Although the pandemic caused much field trip disruption, field trip shifts and changes are also the result of other decisions within the school.

Prior to COVID-19, the Class of 2023 had already experienced setbacks in their field trips. It was a tradition at St. George’s that every eighth grade class takes a trip to Six Flags in St. Louis, Missouri. During the 2018-2019 school year, the then-8th graders were excited for their turn to have fun and grow closer with their peers at the amusement park and engage in fulfilling service opportunities.

However, many would end up disappointed as the school decided to cancel the trip and send the kids to YMCA Camp Widjiwagan, near Antioch, Tennessee, as an alternative. With their transition into high school coming up, the Class of 2023 was looking forward to bigger and better field trip opportunities.

Once COVID hit during their freshman year, field trips became a thing of the past. The current senior class has gone over three years without any form of field trips. When asked about his experience with field trips, senior Deacon Larson shared disappointment for the lack of field trips.

“In middle school, we had a bunch of fun field trips,” said Larson. He spoke highly of the anticipation that came with them. Now, after almost four years of high school, he recalls how “[this year’s seniors] never really had fun field trips to look forward to.”

Middle school director and former Director of Student Life Mrs. Emmy McClain said, “that the biggest impact COVID had was … the transportation. [In the first year of COVID] we couldn’t do anything because people weren’t really hosting, and because we couldn’t get transportation and keep people however many feet apart on a bus.”

As restrictions change and lift, St. George’s has been working to navigate the adjustments in the field trip process.

“Now as [field trips] return, … the transportation has become a real limiting factor because it’s at such high demand, and drivers are so hard to find that the cost for the transportation can be as much as, if not more than, the whole trip itself,” Mrs. McClain explained.

“[On the other hand] if you’re going on a trip that’s like … [an] SGGO trip, … a lot of [costs] are covered as extra fees from the kids,” said Mrs. McClain.

Following the announcement of the SGGO Colorado trip returning this year, upper school science teacher Mr. Michael Masters explained that the decrease in COVID restrictions “makes [trips] easier, which is why they’re kind of unfolding … again this semester.”

With field trip excitement bubbling, faculty has started to feel a bit of pressure to provide the perfect field trip.

“I think there is some expectation for students who haven’t had them in a while, and so for [trips] to live up to people’s expectations is sometimes kind of a challenge,” said Mr. Masters.

Although students might have high expectations, many are just happy that field trips are returning.

Freshman Sarah Kilmurray recalled that she’s “only been on one [field trip] because of COVID, but it was really fun … and overall it was a great experience.” Even though she has limited experience, Kilmurray is looking forward to more field trip opportunities in the future.

Having only been on the eighth grade trip, Kilmurray said “I think it’s very cool [that field trips are coming back], I’m happy about it! I’m excited!”

Kilmurray explained that she is looking forward to more trips because “[trips] create more of a sense of community because you all come together.”

Alongside students, many faculty members share the same sentiment. Mr. Masters added “I think it develops more of a sense of community … with the people who go on a trip together. Because of that shared experience, they form a deeper bond.”

Having shared experiences makes the St. George’s environment more connected. Mrs. McClain explained “the important part of trips and excursions off campus [is] all having this moment together that pulls you tighter.”

Mr. Masters shared that the impact of school trips continues on, even after leaving the St. George’s community. “They’ll … remember those trips. So it not only creates bonds, but it creates an experience that’s longer lasting, … they can then hang that on the school culture.”