The Value of Field Trips (Series – Nov 2017)

Group of Salmon jumping upstream in river

Andrew Miller, this month’s expert from the Education Week field trip series of articles, talks about how field trips can not only help students answer ideas, but generate new ideas to explore.

Response From Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller (@betamiller) is an instructional coach and educational consultant who focuses on project-based learning, assessment and student engagement. He is on the faculty for both ASCD and the Buck Institute for Education. He is the author Freedom to Fail and also writes regularly for Edutopia and ASCD:

Often, field trips occur near or at the end of a learning experience or unit. For example we might learn about salmon and the life cycle of the salmon, and then we go to the salmon hatchery to see the real life connection to the learning. While this can be a useful way to use field trips, we can use fields trips in more innovative ways. Since students are often excited about field trips, why not use it to launch the inquiry. Field trips can create wonder and excitement for learning, and so educators should leverage field trips as a tool to launch questions and research. Imagine, you go to the zoo and see all the amazing animals. You come back to the classroom and your teacher shares that you will be learning more in depth about animals. Immediately you have questions, and your teacher uses these questions to create student-centered inquiry.

Another great use of field trips is to use it to feed the inquiry. After students have asked questions and learned a bit, teachers can use the field trip to answer further questions and generate new ones.  I experienced this myself  as learner. In a project that explored immigration and the themes of barriers and opening doors, we looked at photos from Angel Island in California. We students had some many questions. After generating these questions, we were lucky enough to take a field trip to Angel Island and do on-site fieldwork to find answers to our questions. In addition, we came up of with new questions on the spot we wanted to explore once we returned to the classroom. These are just two innovative ways teachers can use field trips for learning. Ultimately field trips can be used to not only answer questions, but also create them.


From Education Week, Field Trips Are Powerful Learning Experiences,’ by Larry Ferlazzo on December 10, 2016.

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