Everyone loves a field trip…right? Or maybe not… As a teacher I like the way that field trips give my students a shared experience and helps to make abstract science or social studies concepts more concrete. I also like to give my students access to experts in the field and help them imagine professions where this content learning is applied. But…to get these outcomes, teachers have to plan carefully and connect classroom learning to the resources of the field trip destination.
The San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP), along with the San Diego Natural History Museum (SDNHM) and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (Fleet) are partnering in a National Writing Project (NWP) and Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) initiative investigating the intersections of science (or STEM) and literacy (with an emphasis on writing). Yesterday we launched our work with ten formal educators (who work in public schools) and ten informal educators (who work in the museums mentioned above), with a particular focus on field trips.
The facilitation team (of which I am a part) decided to launch our work by focusing on the why of the work. Why is it important to re-examine field trips and consider ways to improve the experience for students and to create supportive structures for teachers and other adults who accompany young people to museums and other field trip sites?
Inspired by a TED Talk by Simon Sinek entitled How Great Leaders Inspire Action, we spent our first (of 5) sessions focused not on the what or how of our project. We sent teams of educators out into the museums to observe and experience an exhibit through a set of prompts that invited them to look and try through a variety of different lenses, and write about their experiences. They critiqued the exhibit–not to find fault with it–but as a way to consider what structures might support learners’ interest, inquiry, and pique curiosity.
Our short, but intense day left us with a desire to take action…to figure out how to make field trips amazing learning experiences, with students at the center. One comment from the end of the day reflections is still bouncing in my head,
…the “why”has the power to transform educational practices. From field trips to worksheets to projects, I wonder how many educators push past the “what.”
Our goal with this project is to do just that–to push past the what and consider the why. The why is where the action sits…and we want to take action toward improving field trip experiences for students by supporting the adults who facilitate them: teachers, museums educators, chaperones, and parents.
I can’t wait to see where this project takes us… If only I had a window into the future to get a hint at just what the possibilities might be!
What do you love about field trips? What does your ideal experience look like, feel like, leave you thinking about?