I had an eye-opening experience on Sunday; my daughter (5 years old, only child) was going stir crazy in the house. I didn’t blame her, it is almost May and rain was coming down melting the snow from the day before, and to make matters worse, my husband and I don’t have TV (only Netfilx) AND we are the mean parents who only let her watch an hour of TV a day with little exceptions!!! So in an attempt to expel some of her energy (and keep my sanity) my husband and I decided to take her to the library then to Creek Bend Nature Center at LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve in St. Charles.
Her face lit up as we entered the Center and she was immediately engaged with the hands on learning experiments. She even entertained my husband and I with a puppet show where she explained the habitats of the different puppet animals! No, my 5 year old is not gifted, my husband and I had to redirect her countless times to stop at the signage to understand what each experiment was teaching her; however, she was thoroughly engaged and learned a lot too!
This experience made me travel down memory lane, as I was brought back to one of my favorite school memories….taking students on field trips! If you read my last “Progress Report” update you heard all about the field trip to the zoo that started off in a panic attack; however, what wasn’t highlighted was the awesome day my students had and the amount of learning my students engaged in throughout the day.
There are countless benefits of learning through field trips, here are my top 5:
- Real World Learning: Students can more easily see connections between what is happening at school and in the ‘real-world’. They begin to see that what they learn within the walls of the classroom can help them solve the problems they see in the world around them.
- Access: Through field trips, students are able to access tools and environments that are not available at school by using the rich laboratories that are our communities.
- Social-emotional Growth: Studies show that students who go on field trips become more empathetic and tolerant.
- Academic Impact: Field trips and hands on learning makes concepts more memorable. Field trips also allow students the opportunity to see things and experience the content in a variety of ways. Students may experience a more holistic, integrated picture of the information that, in the classroom, may have only been presented in a textual and abstract way.
- THEY ARE FUN!!!: Learning should be FUN! Think back to some of your favorite school day memories, were any of them field trips???
However, in order to reap the benefits of a field trip, it takes countless hours preparing and planning. Yes, obviously the logistics need to be taken care of but we also need to prepare our students. There are many different ways we can prepare ourselves and students for success outside our classroom, but again, here are my top 5 suggestions!!
- Visit the site prior to bringing your students to become familiar with your surroundings.
- In order for students to gain the most from their day, ensure they can relate their experience to classroom lessons. Do not have the field trip be students’ first introduction to the unit or concepts.
- Focus the experience for your students by providing them with specific things to see and/or take note of. I highly encourage you to provide a docent if available or create a scavenger hunt to help keep your students engaged and on topic.
- Expect the unexpected. Something will inevitably go differently than you had planned, but remember, at the end of the day you have the same number of students on the bus as you did when you arrive you are #winning!!!
- HAVE FUN!!!! You deserve a bit of fun too, take time to sit back and watch your students engage and explore throughout the day. Enjoy watching their excitement, ask them questions, laugh with them….field trips are the memory makers – be sure to be a part of their lasting memories!
So, as our school year comes to yet another end and we wrap up our field trips for the year; I encourage you to make the most out of them not only for your students but for yourself as well. You work hard day in and day out within the 4 walls of your classroom, take a breather and enjoy life outside the classroom for a day!
Looking for unique field trips within Kane County, just give me a call I’d love to help you plan a beneficial outing for you and your students!
Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning