Field Trips – Fun, but also a Learning Experience for Pat Henry Middle School Students

Connect the Dots is strategically designed to expose students to opportunities that can shape their future.

In February, the students participated in three field trips:

Hispanic Forum at the George T. Brown Convention Center. Students learned about social media, college and careers. Chaperoning the students were PHMS Volunteer Coordinator Aurora Dinstel, Ken and Lorraine Decker, UH student and CTD Enrichment Coach Josh Davis, Rice MBA Student and Outreach Coordinator Sydney Martin, attorney Matt Martin andfield_trip1 teacher/FMA Board member Jessica Davis.

Some of the students put their learning to immediate use:

A group of PHMS boys were excited to visit the police car at the police department booth. One of the boys jumped into the back seat and made a face out the back window. A fellow student snapped a picture. When he got out of the car, several students commented, “Now we can’t put that on Facebook or send it to our friends because they may not know it isn’t real!” Good thinking guys!

Other student quotes:

“I really liked it because it was fun. I learned about jobs I didn’t even know existed.” – Nelly

“I learned a lot on this field trip. It made me think more about my future.” – Samuel

“Algebra is the magic word. You need this for every single career.” – Maricela

“I learned that if I want to be a policeman, I need to have a high school degree and good grades.” – Elias

Expanding Your Horizons – Students attended STEM workshops for middle school girls held at Northbrook Middle School. As the girls arrived by bus and walked into the school courtyard, they were impressed with the school facilities, “Look there are picnic tables so students can eat their lunch outside!” Then they were awestruck as the keynote speaker, a NASA astronaut talked about her teenage dreams and the importance of following your passion.

UH Honors History Course – University of Houston Professor Doug Erwing invited our 7th grade students to attend his honors college history course. PHMS students read the lesson on Great Awakenings, identified vocabulary they did not know, Googled the words and prepared questions for Professor Erwing.

The students asked and answered questions in class and took a pop quiz. They not only held their own, they were attentive and engaged for two hours! If you have ever worked with 13-year-olds, you know how amazing that is! They then went to the Honors College and had pizza, complements of Professor Erwing. We hope that with this being the first time they have set foot on a college campus, it will change their lives. field_trip2

The next day, CTD Enrichment Coaches debriefed the students asking, “What differences did you observe between UH and your classes at PHMS?”

After the students conferred in teams for more than an hour and reported their observations to the class, we stopped adding items to the white board. The following are their observations and comments. We will leave it to your judgment whether they benefited from the field trip.

  • The students used computers to take notes so they can keep the information for review.
  • There was no bell, but the professor knew when to end the class.
  • Classes are conducted at a higher level of education so students can get a degree faster and study harder.
  • Professor Erwing started the class by asking each student what beverage they preferred. Everyone participated and then immediately focused on the subject matter of the class.
  • Students definitely want to learn at UH and maybe not at PHMS.
  • It was quiet in the hallways and in the classrooms with no distractions to inhibit education.
  • Most students arrived in class on time.
  • Nothing was vandalized on campus. Maybe this is because students are trying to learn and not joking around. They respect their school and property.
  • More passion by Professor Erwing. He was really into the lesson and excited to teach.
  • In PHMS there are notes all over the classroom, while at college the walls are plain and clean.
  • Students paid attention to the lesson. When Professor Erwing said there were four points and then skipped one, the students immediately noticed and asked what happened to number three.
  • The students did not use cell phones or listen to music in class. They paid attention.
  • No yelling. Everyone was quiet and respectful. It was easier to hear and think.
  • Students either walk or use bikes to get to class.
  • In college you have a choice about which class you take.
  • Less bullying, pushing and shoving at UH.
  • Difference in desks. Students work at tables not individual desks allowing for more workspace.
  • Classes are smaller and you could hear the professor.
  • There are night classes and dorms.
  • UH offers many different classes at different times instead of almost everyone taking the same classes.
  • There are teaching assistants to help the students when they don’t understand.
  • Restrooms were clean.
  • Students have places to go and freedom to move around.
  • UH food (pizza) was better than our school food.
  • In the library the students were using computers for research and studying rather than looking at books.
  • Professor Erwing gave a very detailed lecture, providing more knowledge and understanding.

FMA sincerely thanks Professor Doug Erwing, Jennifer Erwing, the Honors College students and the Honors College for hosting the 7th grade students from Pat Henry. FMA also thanks the field trip students. They made us proud with the questions they asked and their respectful conduct on campus.

Before each field trip students work with Enrichment Coaches to set objectives and when they return, they email thank-you notes to chaperones and trip sponsors. The field trips are coordinated by Ms. Dinstel, buses are subsidized by HISD and FMA volunteers chaperone the students. It takes a community and funding by CASE and FMA supporters to change the future for the CTD Pat Henry students.

If you would like to volunteer or support the Connect the Dots program, please contact Brian Smith, Board member and Volunteer Coordinator at