ST. CHARLES – Eleven-year-old Orion Bell can recall his fourth-grade field trip to Springfield like it was yesterday. His class went to both the old and new state Capitol buildings, he said, and they saw sites related to Abraham Lincoln, including his home and tomb.
“We walked in the steps of Abraham Lincoln, and it was really cool,” the Wredling Middle School sixth-grader said. “It was like an incredible experience I never expected to have.”
It’s an experience few fourth-graders in and around the Tri-Cities are having. The journey is made by three schools in Batavia School District 101 and one school each in Geneva School District 304, Kaneland School District 302 and St. Charles School District 303.
Orion’s former school, Fox Ridge Elementary in St. Charles, is among those that have decided to end the field trip.
When making decisions about field trips, Principal Anne Van Zandt said educators consider each trip’s learning potential.
The adoption of the Common Core standards affected the school’s decision about the annual fourth-grade trip to Springfield, she said.
“It wasn’t a quick decision,” Van Zandt said. “A lot of thought and consideration went into it. We are one of the very last schools to make this decision.”
While the students are still learning about Lincoln, she said, the trip doesn’t align as well with the new curriculum as it did to the former standards.
“We just can’t devote the time,” Van Zandt said. “That field trip takes a lot of time. Our focus has to be on the Common Core state standards.”
The decision, however, has upset Fox Ridge parents, who are petitioning to reinstate the field trip.
“For me, it’s completely invaluable,” said Kate Bell, who accompanied Orion – her son – on his field trip. “It was one of the best days we had educationally.”
Bell, who also has a third-grader at Fox Ridge, described the annual trip as a rite of passage that gives kids valuable hands-on learning. By seeing the historical sites in person, she said, kids get a better understanding of how people – including Lincoln – once lived.
“We studied him so much,” Orion said of the former president. “We actually found real proof it was all true.”
Not visiting Springfield would be a wasted opportunity, Bell said, comparing it to students near Philadelphia not visiting Independence Hall or the Liberty Bell.
“Lincoln’s right here. His history is right here,” Bell said. “It’s just a shame to let that experience go when we’re right here.”
Jan Wright, principal of Alice Gustafson School in Batavia, said every fourth-grade class went to Springfield when she joined District 101 13 years ago.
Now, Wright said, three of the six elementary schools do.
“It’s a nice culmination after they learn all about the government and about the history of Illinois and Abraham Lincoln being part of that,” Wright said.
Sometimes, the Legislature is in session during the school’s visit.
“They can actually see the government in action,” Wright said.
On the Web
Visit www.change.org/petitions/fox-ridge-elementary-school-reinstate-the-4th-grade-springfield-field-trip to view the petition parents at Fox Ridge Elementary School in St. Charles started to reinstate the fourth-grade field trip to Springfield.