Field trips are for teacher learning, too!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Yesterday, I had the amazing opportunity to do something I haven't done in about a decade... I went on a field trip! 

The Rotary Club invited our high school to their World Affairs Conference on Child Slavery. At first, I was a little apprehensive, as the topic is heavy, and I didn't know if students would be interested. But low and behold, I recruited ten awesome students to go with me, and so we left on a school bus to head to Valparaiso for the conference. 

The conference was very well organized, and the morning started with donuts (a real crowd pleaser!) and a filmed piece from a woman who is actively involved in stopping child slavery and human trafficking around the world. But more than that, her intent was to show us how much we actually use that's probably been touched by the hands of humans being trafficked. 

Wearing clothes made in Vietnam or Bangladesh? There's a high probability child labor was involved, whether forced or otherwise. Passing out popular chocolate candies tonight to your Trick or Treaters? Chances are child workers are the ones who picked the cocoa beans to make that chocolate. While most major companies would never admit to using child laborers (because technically, they don't), the third party companies they use don't necessarily follow the laws. 

What hit home even more came in the second presentation from a Valparaiso University professor. We tend to think of child slavery and human trafficking as things that happen in other countries. But it's estimated that nearly 300,000 slaves are in the United States right now (estimated, because, as the professor said, no one keeps really great data on illegal practices). And 83% of those slaves are American citizens. 

Last year in Indiana, 53 cases of human trafficking were reported. FIFTY THREE. That statistic alone makes me want to cry. Most of those cases were reported in either larger cities or along major highways. 

So, who's at risk? Well, almost anyone. That's what the conference presenters really wanted the kids to see. Those who might be more at risk include those ages 12-14 who use social media and those who feel isolated or alone. Those who may not feel close to their families or don't have a lot of friends are often the ones targeted by traffickers. But anyone could be affected by this, and I think they presented that message loud and clear. 

My ten students and I all left with the same questions on our minds: What do we do now? And how can we help? 

And essentially on our bus ride back, we came up with this:
1. Spread the word. Through things like this blog. And newspaper articles. And presentations. And discussions. 
2. Be on the lookout for anything suspicious and report it. If someone is in immediate danger, call 911. Or, if you suspect something is fishy, call the National Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. Or, you can even text them at BeFree (233733). 
3. Visit the NHTRC website. Check out their information and see what resources they offer. 
4. Don't participate in anything that promotes trafficking culture. Avoid parties or events that glorify trafficking (anything pimp themed, for instance). 
5. Focus a project on human trafficking. Write a research paper, create a poster, or focus a persuasive speech on trafficking, and explain to classmates how serious of a problem this is. 
6. Buy Fair Trade whenever possible. It's hard to know where our food comes from (because even if it's canned or boxed in the USA, it doesn't mean it was grown here). But if you're able to get your hands on Fair Trade products like coffee and chocolate, you're making a difference. 

Whatever you do, do something. Speak out. Tell another. Pass along the contact information to call for help. But do something! If everyone of us did one thing, there would be so much more knowledge and awareness of this major problem. 


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