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Field trip, teacher inspire students


Farragut Middle School students, and even Farragut Intermediate School students, have one more motivational factor to encourage them to reach their full potential, thanks to Elizabeth MacTavish, a FMS seventh-grade science teacher.

Last spring MacTavish orchestrated an Honors and Character Counts field trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks for qualifying seventh-graders.

“I guess the motivation was a little selfish in that as a teacher you spend a lot of your time on, I guess, the lower-end kids. There is probably a more politically correct way to say that but you know, we had a tough year this year. We had a lot of kids with behavior problems,” MacTavish said.

“I had done a trip last year to Tremont and we took the whole group and I just thought ‘We can’t possibly do it this year, not with the amount of behavior issues.’

“But there are so many kids out there who work so hard and get good grades and very seldom do I get to know them or very seldom do we get to do anything nice for them.

“So that was my motivation. To try and recognize the kids that always did what they were supposed to do and get the best grades, so we started from there,” she added.

MacTavish asked teachers from each of the three seventh-grade pods to recommend their top 40 students; students who had excelled academically or had displayed exceptional character throughout the school year.

There were 120 students selected and of that 120, 90 chose to go on the trip.

Although the trip was devised as a reward to these students for their hard work throughout the school year, being out of class for four days required the students to participate in an activity that would replace the classroom time they would miss.

MacTavish decided to have the FMS students prepare and teach an elementary-level science class to students in Manteo, N.C. for a grade.

“I started meeting with them once a month for an hour after school and they started developing a science lesson geared toward elementary school kids.

“They picked their grade level and I assigned them a teacher from Manteo Elementary.

“I gave them the state standards for North Carolina and I said ‘the lesson you teach has to meet these state standards.’ So if astronomy is not in the curriculum for third-grade, they had to find something else to teach their lesson on.

“They worked on this lesson for about three months. And every time we met they wrote a letter to the class they were going to teach,” MacTavish said.

“Then our very first morning in the Outer Banks we went to the elementary school and they actually got to teach this class to the class they had been writing letters to for months.

“I made sure that I stopped through every single classroom that morning to see my kids teaching and I got goose bumps. It was so cool to see them in there teaching. They had the kids out of their seats, they had them on the floor doing stuff, writing on the boards, they had them in little stations around the room, you name it, and they did it,” she added.

The students also received a lesson in character on the trip.

“Before we went to the elementary school we went to a local charity there that provides weekend meals for every fee-waiver or free and reduced kid in the area. They feed about 360 students on the weekend and we brought enough food, just our group, to feed those 360 students for one weekend,” MacTavish said.

The rest of the trip was spent sightseeing.

“We went to the Wright Brothers Museum, we did Cape Hatteras, we went to the lighthouse, we did Jockey’s Ridge, that was their all-time favorite, going to the dunes and rolling down the dunes.

“On the way back from the Outer Banks we stopped in Charlotte and there is an amusement park there called Carrowinds, and it was Math and Physics Day, so we stopped there,” she added.

MacTavish said she hopes the trip will become a yearly event.

“It was a lot of work in terms of these kids put a lot of work into it, but it was a good reward for them and they really deserved it.

“We are hearing a lot of goods things from parents. Even third- and fourth-grade parents are calling and saying ‘we heard about this seventh-grade trip and it has really motivated my kid to get his act together and make good grades while he is in middle school,” she said.

“I have already put in for approval for next year. I am keeping my fingers crossed that with our new superintendent it will get approved,” she added.

 

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