SPRUCE PINE – Eighth-graders in Mitchell County have been enjoying the annual Outer Banks field trip for more than 20 years. This year, however, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it was canceled.
To give students a sense of what the trip would be like, eighth-grade teachers at Harris Middle School got creative and went virtual.
“I just really thought the kids deserved it,” said Jennifer Revels, the eighth-grade math teacher at Harris Middle School who came up with the idea. “I wanted them to be able to experience everything that we did, and I knew some of the stuff we planned on doing was available virtually, so I just thought we could find a lot of the stuff and put it together to get it out there to the kids.”
When Harris eighth grade language arts teacher Stephanie Warren told her daughter, a senior at Mitchell High School, about the idea, she jumped at the opportunity to help.
“I mentioned it to my daughter, Cadee, and she said, ‘Oh my goodness. That was the best trip ever. Can I do it?’” Warren said. “So, I gave her the itinerary, and she built Google Slideshows because she had been to most of the places that we were going.”
From April 20-24, eighth-graders had the opportunity to go on the field trip online. Through daily slideshows, websites, videos and Zoom video conference sessions, students learned about the places they would have visited, took quizzes and talked with their teachers about their memories of past trips.
“The virtual field trip was bittersweet, but it was an opportunity to see and talk about where we would have been each day, and the activities we would have engaged in,” said Deb Blevins, an exceptional children teacher at Harris. “Most of all, it was a time for students and teachers to come together and see each other’s faces and know we are all still here for each other, even if we can’t hug or high-five right now.”
Harris eighth-grade science teacher Sam Sirois said the Outer Banks trip is more than just a fun trip to the beach, it is an opportunity for some students to see another part of the state for the first time.
“For some of these kids, they have never really left the county,” Sirois said. “They’ve been in Mitchell County their whole lives and this might be the only chance they get to leave. So, it killed us that they didn’t get to have that.”
All of the eighth-grade students who had paid for the field trip were provided with a full refund, Warren said.
“We lost a good bit of money by doing that,” she said. “But in the economy we have right now, I don’t regret sending that money home to those kids.”
The virtual field trip slideshows are still available online on the Harris Middle School Facebook page.