J. L. Everhart Elementary School Fifth Graders Visit the Perot Museum in Dallas with Funding from the Longview ISD Foundation, Inc.
Kay Ray, Longview ISD Executive Director, interviewed the students to learn about their learning experience.
On Friday, March 3, at 7:30 AM, chartered buses left J. L. Everhart Elementary School with eighty-five fifth graders and thirteen chaperones and teachers bound for the Perot Museum in Dallas for a day of exploration, inquiry, and math and science learning beyond their classroom.
The Longview ISD Foundation, Inc., a non-profit education foundation that provides funding for Longview ISD educators through its three grant programs, awarded $5,468.00 through its John W. Harrison, Jr. Academic Field Trip Grant Program to teachers Aura Djurisic, Bitia Saravia, TaShebra Walker, Bryan Warren, and Shanekwa Wrighten for their winning grant titled “Let’s Get Lit at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.”

Their grant proposed a cross-curricular field trip with students visiting the Texas Instruments Engineering and Innovative Hall, the Discovering Life Hall, the Gems and Minerals Hall, the Dynamic Earth Hall, the Energy Hall, and the Life Now and Then Hall while at the Perot.  Mr. Warren especially wanted to provide the students with a hands-on experience to make classroom learning relevant with special emphasis on electrical circuitry and ecosystems while also reinforcing reading and math skills.

For some of the fifth graders, this trip to Dallas was their first on a chartered bus, an experience they enjoyed; for some the trip was their first to downtown Dallas.  Arriving at 10:00 AM, the fifth graders divided into groups led by their teachers and chaperones and began their learning tour.

Representing the Everhart fifth graders, Cera Dykes-Miller, Demarcus Johnson, Lilliana Vasquez, Mya Blackmon, and Messiah Williams described their learning experiences.

While visiting the space exhibits, Demarcus said he learned more about the planets, especially about gravity on each planet.  Messiah agreed, saying he learned that the moon is composed of rocks with no water and little gravity.  Lilliana said she learned exactly how the planets and stars were formed, noting particularly that stars are formed of gases.  Messiah also experienced gravity and gravitational pull by trying to lift a bowling ball with three fingers as the gravitational pull changed.  Mya saw a large clear prism and learned about the refraction of light. 

Of course, the fifth graders loved the fossil and dinosaur exhibits.  Messiah saw the fossil recreation of a woolly mammoth, a species that roamed North America up until about 10,000 years ago during the Ice Age when temperatures ranged from very cold to very warm.  He learned that the creatures lost their fur due to climate change.  He was surprised to learn that today’s elephants are distant relatives of the extinct woolly mammoth and are the same size as the woolly mammoth.  Demarcus stated that a map showed him a land bridge that once connected Asia and North America, enabling the T-Rex to travel to western North America. He also was impressed with the dinosaurs’ footprints, helping him truly understand their size in relation to himself.   He and Cera said that as they rode an escalator, it looked as if they were traveling directly toward the T-Rex on display. They both said it looked like they were about to be eaten.  Cera learned that fossils are found worldwide and that they are still being discovered today as lake beds dry up or mountains erode.  They also saw plant fossils.  Lilliana said the experience certainly helped her better understand the earth’s past and the life on it compared to plant and animal life today.  The students also observed the different teeth from the extinct animals, showing them that sharp teeth indicated carnivores, flat teeth indicated herbivores, and both indicated omnivores. 
Cera explained the exhibit that allowed students the experience of flying like an eagle.  While on the virtual reality simulator, she had to tilt herself left and right and up and down just as she were a bird in flight.  Mya enjoyed the birdcall simulator as she listened to the calls of birds.

Messiah especially enjoyed the sport exhibits that allowed him to race Patrick Mahomes virtually on a racing simulator.  The exhibit calculated the speed of both runners. Messiah insisted that Mahomes beat him by only one step.  He also threw a football, volleyball, and baseball as a simulator calculated his speed.  He pointed out that the classes had studied force and motion.  He and Cera pointed out that the exhibits also taught them that exercise is important to their health. 

After a busy morning, students ate lunch in the museum’s café, but even lunch required learning and planning.  In class, the students had reviewed the café’s menu so they would know exactly how much lunch money they needed.  Some students were unfamiliar with sales tax, so the teachers used that teaching moment to educate them about sales tax and its inclusion into the total amount needed for lunch.  The teachers expected students to get a receipt for their lunches and count their change to make certain they had the right amount to return to their parents.  While Mya enjoyed a delicious lunch of chicken tenders and fries, she also reinforced her financial literacy skills. 

After lunch, learning continued at weather exhibits.  Cera experienced what a major, minor, and extreme earthquake would feel like through simulation.  She was also able to touch a tornado.  She learned about a meteorologist’s career and was able to see herself on a screen and function as a weather forecaster on television.  She said she learned how quickly she had to read the teleprompter to report the weather accurately.  Lilliana explained why Texas experiences tornadoes, giving an accurate account of the mixing of warm gulf air with colder air from Canada.  Demarcus was so interested in weather that he is now reading a book from the school’s library about Hurricane Katrina. 

The students continued their learning about the ocean and ecosystems by viewing a 3-D movie.  All the students said they thought the whales, dolphins, and sharks were coming directly toward them, and they extended their hands as if to touch them.  Lilliana said until her visit to the Perot Museum that she did not know that coral reefs were living creatures. She had thought coral was a rock, but the museum exhibit taught her that coral reefs are an important ecosystem to the underwater creatures living near them.  Sadly, she learned that coral reefs are endangered.  Cera also learned about landslides, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions and how seismologists study them to predict these catastrophes from taking human life. 

While the day was full of learning and hands-on experiences, the students’ work is not complete.  Now that they have returned to campus, Mrs. Wrighten explained that the students will now construct a house using their math skills of perimeter and area, and through their expanded knowledge of circuitry learned at the Perot, they will light one of the house’s rooms.  They will use their writing skills to create a brochure about their house as if they were realtors and use their brochures to sell their houses.  Earlier on the campus’s career day, the students heard a presentation from a realtor, so they know about the cost of houses in our area and the salary they must someday earn to afford a home. They will also create illuminated greeting cards to continue their study of electric circuitry.

When their day at the Perot Museum ended at 3:30 PM, the students had experienced over five hours of learning that, as Mr. Warren said, teachers could never replicate in a classroom.  Mr. Warren also noted that students said they would tell their siblings about the trip and what they had seen and learned.  Mr. Warren hopes parents will then take their children to the museum.  Cera said she had asked her dad to take her back during spring break.

The students’ animated report of their academic field trip reaffirmed the Longview ISD Foundation’s belief that this extended learning is worthwhile and worthy of funding. 
Thanks to community-wide financial support, the Longview ISD Foundation, Inc. has funded fourteen academic field trips since the program’s inception in November 2018 for a total of $61,733.74.