Field Trip Learning

The last week of after school classes ended a week ago. This is a bit of a sad time for me because it means I’ll no longer have the pleasure of walking students home after school. Walking students home is a great time for me to connect with students. It even turns out the participation of one student I helped place in an after school program depended on my walking him home. 

Our walks became a great time for us to bond and talk about a wide range of topics. Our conversations varied from his time in school, to his thoughts on the afterschool class I taught, to life in general. I truly valued the time we spent walking together. I often wonder if participants in after school programs that pick up and drop off students experience these same moments of bonding.

Reflecting on our time together made me think of an old blog post I once wrote for a now defunct fieldtrip website.

I thought for this week's blog I would share that old post to show how something as simple as walking can impact how we interact with students. And that if we approach something like walking creativity we have the chance to learn some really great things, not just from the world around us, but about our walking companions too. I hope you enjoy!

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When planning a field trip I find there generally tends to be two kinds of people: those who live for the destination and those who live for the journey. Similarly, there are also two types of learning that happen on a field trip: the expected and unexpected lessons.

There is nothing wrong with either of these types of people or either type of lesson. In fact I think any effective field trip includes some of both. Although, those who go on a trip for the destination tend to be people who prefer expected learning. People like me though? I’m personally someone who prefers the journey.

I prefer the unexpected learning.

The reason I prefer unexpected learning is it allows me to find opportunities to learn everywhere. While destinations and expected learning are great because they provide a depth of knowledge, they are usually limited to one particular type of discipline.

The history class goes to the Museum of Fine Arts to study the history of art. The science class visits the local creek to see an ecosystem in action. The English class goes to the local library to see an author speak.

Now let me give you an example of journey learning, It can be as simple as taking a walk, because in something as simple as a walk I see opportunities to learn about every subject.

Lets go through the usual suspects!

Science: That’s teeball easy. Record the type of trees you pass. Diagram the environment around you. Study the ecosystems that exist. Analyze the weather outside, and the clouds in the sky. You could do this on you walk to an art museum! Who said an art field trip couldn’t include science?

Social studies:  Map the route we took to our destination. Learn the topography of the surrounding area. Determine the origin of the local stores you pass. Research historical relevance of streets you pass.

Math: Well, there is the simple stuff to start. Add up the addresses of the houses you pass. Categorize the number of street signs you pass. List the types of cars you see. But it really starts getting fun when you create math problems based on your walk. How long is the total distance of the walk? How long will it take if we walk at 5 mph? What about 10?

Art: Draw the world around you. Anything--as large as a landscape to as small as a leaf. This is a little bit more difficult to do while walking, but perfect for a five minute rest.

Music: How can you use things you find while walking to make an instrument. What’s the sound of two sticks tapping? What about the sound of leaves crumbling? How about an empty soda bottle we find lying around? (Not that I’m saying pick up every piece of trash you see, but what’s the harm in helping clean up a bit?)

Phys ed: Well outside of the walk itself, there are ample opportunities to exercise. Create a game to play while walking. Maybe trying skipping instead of walking? Try having short races. Maybe go a little out of your way to find an extra set of stairs to climb.

English: And English….. Well this is it right here: write about your walk, your thoughts, what you see, what you wish you’d see, what you are going to see, what you just saw. Write about anything you want. Just write.

So next time you find yourself taking your students on a field trip, I suggest you take a second and think about the journey ahead of your class. And then smile when you think of all the ways you can encourage your students to learn on the way there and maybe learn something about them too.

 

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