The Value of Field Trips (Series)

to-write-774648_640Education Week recently delved into exploring the value of field trip experiences for student learning. Educators from a variety of backgrounds were interviewed and provided their take on ways to make the most of field trips and included tips for making each trip successful.

We believe these articles are very insightful and important for any teacher who wants to incorporate powerful learning experiences into their curriculum. So eac month Field Trip Factory will feature a new response to a question posed to the experts, so check each upcoming newsletter for more insights into field trips!

The question posed to this educator was, “How can teachers maximize the learning potential of field trips?”

Response From Jennifer Orr

Jennifer Orr teaches kindergartners at a public, Title I school in the suburbs of Washington. She is an ASCD Emerging Leader, blogs at, and is @jenorr on twitter. She feels lucky to have a job she loves:

Field trips are powerful learning experiences but it is easy for them to pass quickly. Maximizing the learning requires thoughtful work done before and after the trip. Prior to the field trip, time must be allotted to get students interested and excited and to build some schema for the location and content to be explored. This can be done through watching videos, looking at maps and photographs and reading about the location. Collecting students’ questions about the trip, location, and content will also help increase interest in the trip.

During the field trip a variety of strategies will help students hold on to their excitement, curiosity, and learning. The list of questions collected before the trip is one tool. Carry the list with you, in a smaller format most likely, and reference it as possible answers or connections to the questions come up. Depending on the age of students, each one could be in charge of some of the questions throughout the trip. Another tool that can greatly enhance the field trip experience is a camera. Having students take photographs or video during the trip gives them a focus and offers resources to use after the trip. If students do not have their own cameras or phones for this purpose, small digital cameras can be attached to lanyards and shared throughout the trip. Again, students can be assigned specific tasks for capturing or can be free to see what interests them.

After the trip is the most crucial time to ensure learning is maximized. It’s easy to feel rushed to move on to other content or focus after a trip, but slowing down and spending time on the learning from the trip will ensure it was a worthwhile experience. If there are photos or video from the trip students can use them to create artifacts about their learning (videos, scrapbooks, nonfiction writing). Students can write thank you notes to people at the field trip location, to individuals in the school or district that may have helped with funding, or to chaperones who supported the trip. These thank you notes should include specific details from the trip. Throughout the year connections to the field trip should be made when possible as the concrete experience will support future learning.

Field trips can be expensive, complicated, and time-consuming, but with thoughtfulness and time they can be some of the most powerful learning experiences available for students.

From Education Week, Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo, by Larry Ferlazzo on December 10, 2016.

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