#HamstraHighlights

Leadership · Curriculum · STEM

#HamstraHighlights

Field Trips: Fun, Learning, or Both?

Ahhh… The Field Trip. One of the best learning opportunities of all time. Nothing beats the real thing. Nothing beats being there. Nothing beats learning by doing… the real thing. As far as teaching and learning go, it doesn’t get any better than this.

But even when packed with all that potential, the field trip risks the real possibility of no learning experienced whatsoever. It’s possible to just have fun, or have a day off of school, and all the structure that school has become. On the bus ride home, it’s possible to reflect upon no new learning at all–except maybe about your social life.

As an educator, I’ve wrestled with The Field Trip. Of course, I love them. But I also want to take advantage of the learning opportunities beyond campus–even if just for the sake of the opportunity alone. After all, we may never be here again! Don’t let these moments slip away without taking some new learning home with you. #HamstraHighlights readers know that I don’t settle for fluff OR learning; standards OR fun; acting, reacting, OR interacting. Why can’t we have both?

In the 2012-2013 school year, I leaned in to field trip learning with gazelle-like intensity. Especially with my state’s newly-released North Carolina Science Essential Standards, I was on a mission to find examples of those standards in the world around us, capture them, and bring them back to class by any means necessary. As a fifth grade math/science teacher, I wanted extra, supplemental resources for my learners. And I wanted them bad. And nothing was going to stop me.

The Standards-Based Scavenger Hunt

Therefore, it wasn’t enough for our fifth graders to simply attend the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. They needed to experience it. They needed to take advantage of its resources. They needed to learn a ton of information on this field trip. And I was going to provide them this opportunity by aligning these museum resources with our fifth grade science standards… in the form of a scavenger hunt.

On about 15 separate occasions, I found myself racing to the science museum. I couldn’t wait to create this. I absolutely loved the process. Selecting which tools would best fit the format–even that was a blast. Which would be the most efficient for my stakeout? I took pictures and videos. I used voice recorders for audio only. I took laptops (that’s plural), my cell phone, and even a printed map from the help desk. This was 2012.

Deeply reading, processing, and absorbing every word, picture, diagram, and exhibit, I carefully aligned the resources to the standards, all the while sequencing questions in the order of the exhibits themselves. In other words, scavenger hunters could find all 106 (modified from the original 151) answers on seven different floors without repeating a step. This learning experience was going to flow. Or, so I thought…

What Really Happened

  • Because there were 106 questions to answer in about 150 minutes (after orientation), no one finished. Not the kids, not the chaperones, not even the teachers. For many in each of those groups–that caused anxiety and stress. Not finishing the assignment was a total failure to them.
  • After much begging, prodding, and forcing, no one would pay me for my services. Initially, I didn’t do it for the money. I didn’t do it because I had to. I did it because I loved it and I wanted to. But when reflecting on how much time I invested, I thought a little jingle for the weekends would be nice. I even tried to set up a Teachers-Pay-Teachers account, but after reading the fine print about copyrights and all that, I got really scared.
  • Because I invested so much into this passion, I didn’t want to give it away for free. That included me not sharing it with my colleagues in a user-friendly format. At first, I only gave them paper copies. Then, I would only email them PDFs. Have you ever seen this kind of non-sharing in your journey? My armor was on. My guard was up to protect myself and my services. This field trip resource was mine.

What I Would Change Next Time

Looking back, I wish I would have made the entire experience theirs. Here’s how I may have gone about that:

  • Invite others to collaborate in creating the scavenger hunt from the very beginning. Not only would this have saved me time in working more efficiently, I would have gained from others’ perspectives and ideas. Learning is funner with friends.
  • Set clear expectations for everyone: You don’t have to finish. Do the evens. If you can’t find the answer in 30 seconds, skip it. For the last 30 minutes, give your papers to your chaperone and go to your favorite places in the museum.
  • Reduce my input and invite theirs. For example: “Here are 10 questions I created for this floor. Can you create 10 questions for me to answer on a different floor?”
  • Now, I would upload it to Google, share each of the docs, and ask for feedback. At the very least, Google offers wider margins for creativity (and actual margins that may still need slight adjustments after enduring Word conversions).

Full Circle

Have it. Share it. Make it better. Help me fix a few margins. Help me enhance it with Google. Give me feedback.

And please–Have some fun.

And if anyone can figure out how to monetize it, perhaps my family and I can meet you for dinner.

Here it is… Enjoy.

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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