Observation parties and educational tours should not be confused with outings. Their object is to develop the observation habit in boys and to educate them through the eye and ear. This may be accomplished through a strong committee, one that will keep before boys on a tour their opportunities to learn, rather than for mere fun and frolic. The term observation party has been used when visiting a local factory or institution, and educational tour when spending one or more days on a longer trip, visiting a score or more of places.
At first these privileges were planned for by the outing or social committees, but in recent years this work has been assigned to the educational work committees, which have done faithful work in many of our Associations by arranging for tours of inspection and observation.
New Jersey boys have made educational tours for several years. They have gone to Washington, Philadelphia, Old Point Comfort, Hampton, Alexandria, Mt.
Vernon, New York, Boston, Portland, the White Mountains, Lake Champlain, Lake George, and many other places of historic and modern interest. The tours have attracted the attention of all classes of boys.
Superintendents and principals of schools have encouraged the boys to go and later read essays about their trips to their classmates.
While the trips have been instructive and the educational idea has been kept uppermost, the boys have had great fun. In a crowd boys manufacture entertainment just as naturally as they watch out for meal-time, so it is seldom a serious matter to provide amusement on the trips. They are quite too busy in "seeing things" to be overcome with ennui. The trips have been the main subject of excited conversation for days at a time and each one of them has gone down in each boy's life with special memories. In fact, the trouble is not so much in keeping the boys interested as in preventing them from becoming so "interested" that they allow their enthusiasm to get away with them; but even that is not to be condemned provided it does not carry them too far. The boys, however, have always seen that and have "caught on" to the idea of always being gentlemen.
That solves most of the problems.
A definite policy has been followed which is given here briefly as suggestive for the organization of similar trips elsewhere.
The policy for the year, the number of places to be visited, and the number of parties to be conducted should be settled early, so the boys and their parents may know exactly what to expect. The boys can then choose the trip in which they are particularly interested and so get ready for it, if they wish, by reading on the subject or in any other way. As far as those who have the tours in charge are concerned, system solves many difficulties.
The places which may be visited are almost inexhaustible. There are manufacturing plants and large stores with their complicated systems of handling their huge amount of business or their actual production of goods.
There are the government offices from the city hall, the police stations and fire departments, to the court house and officials, and the state capitol. Then there are museums, neighboring colleges and universities, newspaper offices and plants, telephone exchanges, parks, and so on indefinitely.
Permission to visit factories or other establishments should be secured at least one month in advance, and it is important to again notify the firm to be visited about twenty-four hours before the visit, so that there may be no misunderstanding or embarrassment to either party. Some firms will not grant permission because they think the boys are young and will interfere with the employees. As a precaution it is necessary in even' interview or letter to state clearly the object of the visit, give some idea of the number in the party and just how it is to be conducted. The boys should be warned before every trip not to ask questions of employees or in any way hinder their work; all information desired should be asked of the guide. The boys should not touch any machinery or articles manufactured unless told to do so. They should act as gentlemen, for their example will largely determine whether another party may have similar privileges.
Usually not over fifteen boys should constitute a touring party, so that every member can see and hear what the guide has to explain. In case a larger number is taken divide into two or more groups, arrange for a leader for each group and endeavor to have more than one guide.
It is a good plan to arrange for compositions or essays on every visit. These can be read at a members' meeting, and besides being instructive will help show how profitably hours can be spent in this way. Each composition should be written on the same size paper and later bound in a. loose leaf binder. This will serve as a record for the committee of every party or tour. Several years' experience has shown that it is difficult to secure a composition from every member of a party.
The best results have come when two boys have been appointed to do this work and then encouraged to have it finished at an early date. A copy of the best one should be sent with the letter of thanks to the person in charge of the place visited. This reveal in a practical way what the Association is doing, possibly attract interest and prepare the way for a later visit by another party.
Previous to the trip to Old Point Comfort in April last year the announcement of the essay competition with its rules was published. It produced good results.
It is given here.