GROTON -- Indignant with the administration of the Florence Roche Elementary School for canceling this year's annual field trip to historic Plimoth Plantation, a group of parents have taken steps to have the special day reinstated.
According to a letter addressed to current and former parents of Florence Roche students, the administration decided to cancel the trip to Plimoth Plantation this year and instead established a multiyear rotation in which the popular field trip would only be one of three different off-campus visits offered each year.
Other field trips might include visits to such educational places as the Museum of Science, historic Salem or the Lowell National Park.
But some parents, including Angela Donahue, Wendy Kelly, and Gina Cronin, all parents of former, current or future third-graders, felt strongly enough about the Plimoth Plantation and Mayflower II field trip that they have begun a petition drive demonstrating support for the trip.
With a goal of 100 signatures, the group is already well on its way.
"We feel this field trip is irreplaceable and should be available for all current and future third-grade students," stated the group in a letter to fellow parents. "Thanks to the efforts of Ms. Snow, a grant was secured for her students and 25 additional students to travel once again this year to Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower II. Unfortunately, this does not give all third-grade students equal opportunity to have this unique educational experience."
"Field trip decisions at the Florence Roche Elementary School are made through a thorough team process at every grade level," explained principal Russ Hoyt in a statement. "Specifically in regards to the Plimoth Plantation trip, the third-grade team planned for their students to have the Plimoth Plantation brought to us this year. In addition, they planned to go to the Museum of Science in order to enhance our students' learning in the area of science. We are working to enhance areas of the curriculum by bringing learning alive for students."
Hoyt cited work by writer Jonathan Keats and Prof. Neal Lane of Rice University, both of whom stressed the importance of science and technology as the sources of America's prosperity and success.
"We, the staff and administration at Florence Roche, appreciate the parents' passion for the educational experiences of their children," stated Hoyt. "In fact, Liz Garden, the assistant principal, and I met with parents at a PTA meeting on Oct. 18. We discussed the process by which field trips are planned and how they are designed to bring learning alive. Several parents expressed concerns that the children would not be going to Plimoth Plantation this year. One parent said 'the children are losing out on a right of passage.' Several other parents were supportive of the process that teachers go through to decide what field trips students go on. One parent said 'Plimoth is open on the weekends so we can take our children if we decide to.'
"There is also a teacher who was able to secure a grant to take her class to Plimoth," continued Hoyt. "All but two of the students in her class signed up to go. That left 25 seats on the bus her class will take, so we opened those 25 seats to the remaining third-grade families and we had 27 requests for those seats, so we were able send all but two students who requested to go on the trip. I am also in the process of setting up meetings with several families to discuss their concerns further."
Hoyt said the Plimoth Plantation field trips were an annual event for some years but it has not always been that way.
According to the parents' letter, Hoyt told parents that a vote had been taken among the school's five third-grade teachers with the result that the Plimoth Plantation trip was to be included in a three-year rotation cycle with other trips to places of educational interest.
To make up for the missed trips to Plimoth in the off years, role players would be invited to the school to speak with students instead.
However, the three parents were not satisfied with that solution.
"Although we are in support of all field trips that support our District's curriculum, the experience, as a class, at Plimoth Plantation cannot be replaced with an in-school version," concluded their letter.
Plimoth Plantation, located in Plymouth, was founded in 1947 as a recreation of the original settlement established by Puritan colonists who had fled England to seek religious freedom.
Since its start, Plimoth Plantation has grown to include reproductions of the Mayflower and typical 17th-century colonial and Indian villages, which are interpreted for guests by historic role players, outdoor and indoor learning programs, and exhibits detailing how the English settlers got along with its Indian neighbors.
In an effort to work with the school's administration to reinstate the Plimoth field trip on an annual basis, the concerned parents offered to raise money to pay for them on their own but were told it would make no difference, as students could not afford to miss two days of school for field trips.
"While in-classroom experience is valuable, it is these select field trips that create a link for students between memorizing facts and real-life understanding of history, science and math," argued the parents in their letter. "These field trips help teachers make learning applicable and fun in a way that is otherwise unachievable."
In order to make sure students continue to have that opportunity, the three parents began a petition drive to show support for an annual Plimoth Plantation field trip .
Those interested can go to www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-floro-3rdgrdefieldtrip-plimothplantation-mayf/.
Neither Hoyt nor Garden could be reached for comment on this article.