At Fletcher Maynard Academy, field trips have a whole different meaning. The school’s still got the traditional Plimoth Plantation and Museum of Science visits, but students also climb the Great Wall of China and go on zip lines through Costa Rica’s rainforest.
The goal, school staff say, is to get children to act locally and think globally.
“It’s about knowing our neighbor and what makes children from different countries unique and special,” Principal Robin Harris said. “It’s pretty important for the kids to understand we all have similarities and differences, and we’ve got a lot of the shared experiences.”
For Harris, experiencing other cultures is just as important as traveling to the local fire station and the Boston Children’s Museum.
Harris grew up traveling the world as a member of an Air Force family. Therefore, she was determined to provide those experiences to Cambridge’s youngest students when she joined Fletcher Maynard in 2000.
“The idea of field trips has always been extremely important to me, and especially, the sense of using it as a vehicle to empower children, to give additional experiences and exposures,” Harris said. “I’m a product of world travel.”
She created the international traveling program in 2001, and since then, students have explored England, China, Italy, Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and, most recently, Senegal in the spring. They have also traveled throughout the country, stopping in New York City, Florida and Washington D.C., where they witnessed the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Sitting in her office, near a sign that read, “Dare to dream big,” Harris felt excited about the upcoming trips to Puerto Rico in spring 2014 and India the following year, but she also expressed her concern about being able to raise the necessary funds to sponsor the trips.
Not every family at Fletcher Maynard can afford trips overseas, which are often pricey. It will cost $1,000 per person to travel to Puerto Rico in the spring and even more for the trip to India, she said.
But Harris is determined to provide the opportunity to every student, who obtains parental authorization, despite how much money they can contribute.