Yale Elementary students take virtual field trip to the Woodland Police Department

In coming up with innovative ways to keep her students engaged, teacher Sarah Taylor came up with the idea of a virtual field trip

WOODLAND — Yale Elementary School students in teacher Sarah Taylor’s fourth grade class went on a field trip to the Woodland Police Department virtually using Google Classroom and webcams. 

Sarah Taylor takes students on virtual field trips and offers them time to share to maintain the social aspects of school. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools
Sarah Taylor takes students on virtual field trips and offers them time to share to maintain the social aspects of school. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools

In coming up with innovative ways to keep her students engaged, Taylor came up with the idea of a virtual field trip and reached out to the Woodland Police Department to see if they’d be interested, “I’m really thankful to our police department for taking the time to do this for our students,” she said. “The class loved it and will be mailing thank-you notes and pictures to our wonderful officers.”

Chief Jim Kelly and Officer Eric Swenningson, “Officer Eric” to the students, used a webcam to welcome the students to the department and showed them around the entire facility. With Chief Kelly working as the cameraman, Officer Eric served as the tour guide and showed the kids the department’s holding cells, evidence lockers, armory, fingerprint station, and detective’s office. Chief Kelly also walked students through the equipment Officer Eric takes with him on every call including his vest, handcuffs, baton, and sidearm.

Officer Eric gave students a tour of a police cruiser and showed them all the equipment he uses. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools
Officer Eric gave students a tour of a police cruiser and showed them all the equipment he uses. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools

Students were surprised at one point during the tour when Officer Eric opened a closet door to find a lifelike practice dummy standing menacingly in the closet. “This is ‘Bob,’ the department’s practice dummy,” explained Officer Eric. “We use Bob to practice different techniques, however, it’s also become a bit of a tradition to move Bob around the department to surprise other officers.”

Chief Kelly and Officer Eric even pulled a police cruiser right outside the office close to the wireless network so students could receive a tour of the police car. “This is my real ‘office’ and where I spend most of my day,” explained Officer Eric. He showed students the laptop he uses to run identification and process tickets; the two radar detectors (one for when the car is in motion and the other a handheld device); the two radio systems in the cruiser (one for local law enforcement and the other for state troopers who use a different frequency); as well as the cruiser’s lights, horn, and siren.

Bob, the practice dummy, likes to surprise officers by hiding in different spots throughout the department. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools
Bob, the practice dummy, likes to surprise officers by hiding in different spots throughout the department. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools

At the end of the tour, students had a question-and-answer session with Chief Kelly after Officer Eric went with other on-duty officers to an emergency call. Students asked Chief Kelly about how to become a police officer, whether the department has any K-9 officers, and a wide range of other questions before thanking the chief. After saying goodbye, the students shared what they learned with the class and had a brief show-and-tell.

Taylor has already started planning the next virtual field trip for her students. “I’m going to reach out to the fire department,” she said. “A parent of one of my students is a firefighter for a different city so he’s thinking about giving us a tour, too.”

Officer Eric Swenningson, "Officer Eric," served as the class's tour guide. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools
Officer Eric Swenningson, “Officer Eric,” served as the class’s tour guide. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools

Organizing virtual field trips and other ways of connecting socially has been a focus for Woodland teachers. 

“We meet as a class at least once a week which begins and ends with chaos as all the students say ‘hello’ to one another,” said Taylor. “We make sure to take time so students can do show-and-tell, read aloud, and do other social connections because relationships are important at every age; I miss my friends so I know my students must miss their friends, too.”

Taylor recommends parents consider arranging for virtual homework sessions using the same technology they use to connect with schools. 

“Classmates can work together on projects and assignments over Google Hangouts, ask their peers questions, or just chat for a bit,” she said. “We just need to keep being creative with how we use technology and other methods to make sure kids receive the social connection of school, too.”

Woodland Police Chief Jim Kelly answers student questions during their virtual field trip. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools
Woodland Police Chief Jim Kelly answers student questions during their virtual field trip. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools

To learn more about how Woodland Public Schools continues educating students and serving the community during the statewide closure, visit the dedicated news webpage at https://www.woodlandschools.org/home-learning-stories

Information provided by Woodland Public Schools.

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