The Value of Field Trips (Monthly Series Continued Dec 2018)

checklist-1942870Field trips and preparation go hand-in-hand. In this month’s article from Education Week, Professor Stephanie Smith Budhai reminds us of the importance of planning activities to maximize the field trip experience.

Response From Stephanie Smith Budhai

Stephanie Smith Budhai is co-author of Teaching the 4Cs with Technology: How do I use 21st century tools to teach 21st century skills? (ASCD), along with Laura Taddei. She is an assistant professor and director of graduate education at Neumann University, holding a PhD in Learning Technologies and certification as a K-12 Instructional Technology Specialist from the Pennsylvania Department of Education:

Field trips can be overwhelming for teachers who must organize and constantly count heads to ensure that no one is lost. There is much planning and logical preparation that must be considered before embarking on a field trip.

The safety of students being off-campus and the maintenance of an acceptable adult to student ratio will have to be met and will be different depending on the age of students, their general behaviors, and field trip environment. Cost is also an area that must be considered as well as transportation.

Even with all of this, field trips provide authentic, hands-on, experiential learning opportunities where students can connect what they are learning in classroom, in a real-world context. Field trips should be used to extend learning beyond the classroom walls and provide practice. The best way to maximize the potential learning field trips is to embed the trip into the lesson or unit plan from the very beginning. A field trip cannot be an afterthought or something that needs to happen to meet the field trip requirement for the school. Field trips must be woven into the fabric of the lesson and academic content.

To truly maximize the learning potential of field trips, teachers should include several pre-field trip learning activities in class that lead up to the actual field trip experience. While on the field trip, teachers should take advantage of connecting course content with students and reinforcing previously learned concepts. Learning is enhanced when teachers create opportunities for students to reflect on the experience and draw meaning that is relevant to the learning objectives of the unit they are engaging with.

Remember, field trips should be “fun” experiences for students, but they should also be meaningful and used as a pedagogical tool to help students develop their understanding of content and concepts related to in-class academic work. Keeping these things in mind will lead to learning that is maximized, used purposefully, and provide rich contextual learning experiences for students and teachers through field trips.

From Education Week, Great Field Trips Expand the Mind,’ by Larry Ferlazzo on December 14, 2016.

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