“We LOVE to weed!” exclaim several second graders in Susquehanna Waldorf School teacher Rochelle Dietz’s class as they pluck the unwanted weeds from the soil at Heritage Creek Farm & Educational Center. The students, visiting the Center for their year-end class trip, are getting a taste of next year’s third grade curriculum on farming and gardening.

Multi-day curricular class trips in Waldorf education serve to expand the students’ world through hands-on experiences and direct observation. It is an active form of learning that corresponds to the classwork and deepens the understanding and relationship with the material. Class 4’s study of local history and geography, for instance, culminated in a trip to Ricketts Glen to experience the spectacular waterfalls and scenery of the Red Rock and North Mountains, as well as exploration of the region’s rich history of the once-booming coal mining industry.

But it’s not just the educational content that makes these trips so invaluable to the student’s growth.

From first through eighth grade, the students engage in progressively more challenging adventures, allowing them to not only use their knowledge in a contextual manner, but also to overcome their limits and expand their perspective. Things can get a bit uncomfortable at times.  Class 4 learned this on their first night of camping at Ricketts Glen, when temperatures dipped and the skies unloaded heavy rains. Class 6 stepped out of their comfort zone and into the busy streets of New York City. And Class 7 uncovered new heights of self-discovery, overcoming fears and forming new pathways of trust with their classmates on a high ropes course.

While across the nation field trips are being eliminated from school district’s budgets, experiential learning through class trips remains steadfast at SWS, a tradition that will continue to instill a real confidence in its students, from the rich earth of a farm field to the skyscrapers of Manhattan.  “We don’t just want our children to acquire work skills from their education,” writes Julia Ryan of The Atlantic, “we also want them to develop into civilized people who appreciate the breadth of human accomplishments. The school field trip is an important tool for meeting this goal.”