In recent years, Shoreham-Wading River High School’s annual senior class trip to Walt Disney World has been called into question over whether it has educational value, a state Education Department guideline.
On Tuesday, this year’s current crop of seniors showed up at the district’s Board of Education meeting to argue that the Orlando trip is more than just fun.
“This trip allows students to experience independence and responsibility in a controlled setting,” senior Robert Joannou said during a presentation he and five other students gave the board. “This is important because in a few short months many students will be heading off to college.”
The students’ words appear to have worked: The school board approved the trip later in the meeting.
It’s a tradition,” senior Paige Ekert said following the meeting. “It’s something we have been looking forward to for so many years and I feel like we deserve it.”
Paige and Robert were joined by classmates Emily Ginley, Noelle Pluschau and James Logan during the presentation. The students presented a slideshow describing how the trip does in fact provide an educational experience. They brought up the amusement park’s educational exhibits and rides, such as “The American Adventure” and Epcot’s “World Showcase.”
The students also argued that the trip forces them and their classmates to use maps and public transportation to get around on their own. In addition, they said it teaches them to budget money and work together in small groups.
“It’s great to learn things, but it’s also great to come together as a class,” said John Zukowski, president of the Board of Education. “Those are the things you are going to remember about high school.”
In the past, high school principal Daniel Holtzman noted, the trip has been “tremendously successful and valuable.” He added that there is a place marker in the school’s budget to fund it.
At a previous board meeting, parents and students said some seniors can’t afford the trip, which isn’t funded by the school budget. Going forward, Mr. Holtzman said, money allocated by the budget — combined with fundraising efforts by the senior class — should make it possible for all students to attend.
The students said they worked all summer on this presentation, meeting three to four times a week. They also met frequently with teacher Melissa Donnelly to create a plan for the trip to be educational.
“I was very sad when I thought the students might lose the Disney trip,” said Marsha Ekert, Paige’s mother. “It’s a very hardworking grade. They are all very high-achieving and I think they can learn in a fun way for a couple of days.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River High School principal Daniel Holtzman gives an introduction before the student presentation at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. (Credit: Krysten Massa)