Writer's Field Trips by Darlene Beck Jacobson

Another School year begins and it never fails to send me back to my own school days.  In keeping with our September theme of field trips and places we go to write, I want to share some of the things I learned about writing and life from the field trips I took in elementary school.

We grew up in a small working class town along the Raritan Bay in NJ. No one was wealthy, many of us - my family included - would be considered poor by today's standards. But as I look back, I realize how much the schools did to try and level the field by providing enriching experiences via class trips. Located within an hour's drive of NY City, we took advantage of the opportunities. In third grade we took a ferry boat to the Staten Island Zoo, passing by the Statue of Liberty on the way. First lesson: It's a big world out there and sometimes you need a boat to get to a special place.

In fourth grade we visited  George Washington's Headquarters in Morristown, NJ, and though I don't remember  much of the trip, one fact stayed with me. To get the pretty rose color on the walls of the interior, brick was crushed and pulverized into the paint. That someone would go to so much trouble to make something look beautiful amazed me. Lesson: History is much more than dates and battles.  It's people at their best and worst. This began my love of history.

In sixth grade we had the opportunity of a lifetime when we took our class trip to the New York World's Fair in 1964. Held in Flushing Meadows, Queens, the theme was "Peace Through Understanding". An international gathering on four square miles of land. Lesson: The world has so much to offer. Think beyond your own small part of it and appreciate what other cultures have given to mankind.  This is a lesson some of us still need to work on.

I have no doubt that these lessons formed the foundation of my writing. These beginnings - along with my adult trips as a teacher  and mother - influence what I write and continually give me inspiration for the young characters I create.  Tapping into these "field trips" is research of the best kind.


  1. I grew up in New Jersey at the same time period - I remember the class trip to the Tempe Wicke house at Morristown where she allegedly hid her horse from the British - a story now repudiated - but such a wonderful story to share with ten-year-old girls... Thanks for the memories....

    1. Lived in NJ most of my life and I've never heard of Tempe Wicke house. Sounds like a field trip is in my future...

  2. "History is people at their best and worst." That is so true.


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