Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Importance of Field Trips

One aspect of my Educational Philosophy that I didn't touch on before has to do with field trips.  I don't think I've ever voiced my opinion about them before or stressed to families why I thought they should come.  Better break that silence and let the world know: Field Trips are an ESSENTIAL part of life, particularly in the educational years of children and youth.  Throughout this post you can see some snapshots of great field trips we went on in the 2012-2013 school year.
 In my view, you can only learn so much in a classroom.  There are constrictions and limitations.  Even if you let toddlers play with dirt on your carpeted classroom floor there is still more they could gain from a trip beyond your four walls. Field trips enable a barrage of things: interactive learning, rejuvenating entertainment, supplemental learning, social interaction and community awareness, exposure to new ideas and places, pride and self affirmation, connections from the real world to our lives, application of knowledge and skill development, and overall learning!
 We have had a great time going on field trips with our friends this year.  There have been some field trips that didn't turn out great (little advanced preparation) and some field trips that were exceptional learning opportunities for everyone (mega advanced preparation).  I keep pushing for intentional experiences with our children and I think field trips are a great opportunity to be actively engaged in your child's interests and share tidbits of knowledge along the way.  Don't think of it as a time to go on a lovely walk and gab with your mom friends (though there is a time and a place for that), think of it as a field study where the adult is consciously making an effort to expose children to new ideas and experiences.
 I believe that (in the preschool years especially) kids should have a small amount of focused and purposeful education and then expand their growing understanding of the world by being in the world.  Ever go to a job interview where they didn't ask about your "Real World" experience?  Yea, neither have I.  As we take our kids on excursions, or field studies, we are allowing their intuitive nature to learn outside of the classroom.  This is how they will learn and thrive as they grow older.  How do you learn as an adult?  For me, learning involves a lot of reading, hands on experiences, lots of reading, hands on experiences, and repeat. Shouldn't we do our children the same service?
 When I asked a friend about her view on the importance of field trips it was like I lit a fire under her.  She wrote many paragraphs on her thoughts.  Turns out I'm not the only one passionate about field trips, but not all for the same reasons.  My friend, Katrina, is a mom to two young girls.  For her it the importance of the field trips has been multiple fold.  She has learned and grown as a mother.  In her words, "Field trips with one child take getting used to with preparing the diaper bag, snacks, lunch, stroller or ergo, camera, etc. but once you get the hang of it field trips are a rewarding way to give your child a new experience and exposure to new ideas. With my first child, I was gifted and purchased some local memberships. Going with your child (just the two of you) can be fun and educational; however, in my experience I found field trips through a moms meetup group or through little adventures preschool so much fun, rewarding and educational. Kids get to learn from all the moms and from each other. The kids begin learning socialization in addition to having a new type of stimulus. I found that I learned so much from watching other moms use various discipline techniques such as love and logic vs. others. I got to see what it's like to raise boys vs. girls. I got to watch mom balance two, three and more kids. I began learning all the different ways to parent and how my child best responds to new information. The great thing about field trips is that I got the opportunity to see what interests my child. I would get to see her get excited about the train at the zoo or the space exhibit at the museum. I learned that she loves trains and could care less about other things at this time. I know her interests change and develop over time but going on field trips is a great indicator to me on types of activities I can create and focus on at home. After we went to the fire station for a tour, my daughter wouldn't put down her safety tot pack. She played with it for weeks, so I took her on another tour at a different fire station then took her to the children's museum to play on their fire truck. For about two months, my one year old loved fire trucks. Than we moved on to space after seeing an exhibit at the DNSM."
I would encourage you to think about field trips you could take your children on and what the purpose of those field trips would be.  Ask yourself a few key questions, "What is worthy and requiring of understanding? What is evidence of understanding? What learning experiences and teaching promote understanding, interest, and excellence?"  I'd recommend you get your hands on a book called "Understanding by Design" (I have a first edition copy if anyone wants to borrow it). When children are small these questions have simple answers, the important part of it (to me at least) is that we as the adults are taking on the responsibility of raising our children and sharing knowledge intentionally.  We don't just sit idly and discover that life has passed us by without a thought.  
 Knowledge and the opportunity for learning is everywhere.  I love what my friend Katrina told me today about preparing for a field trip (shall we say "Field Study"?).  "We are planning on going to the Space exhibit at the Nature and Science Museum. I have put together a bag of space activities to throw in my car including space do-a-dot printables and round stickers, books on space, a space tot pack with dry erase crayons, and space stickers. Since these materials are with me, I can pull them out during snack or lunch and supplement the learning. For example, counting all the moon rocks, looking for letters drawn in the wet sand exhibit, or talking about the various colors of the planets. If we are unable to do the activities at the museum then that evening, or the following day, I pull out those activities at home to reinforce the learning experience referring to what we saw the previous day. This allows me to tailor the learning in a way that is age appropriate for my child. Many exhibits try to appeal to various age ranges but might not be perfect for my child to get the most out of it, so I have an opportunity to optimize learning while my child is engaged, interested and having fun."
Don't expect your child to learn more simply by spending more time inside a classroom.  Prioritize field trips.  Get out and learn from the world.  And while you're at it, take the opportunity to "optimize learning while [your] child is engaged, interested and having fun."

Happy Learning!

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog about the importance of field trips. I teach pre-K and think the field trips we take provide great learning and social experiences for my students. Like you, I've had some that were poorly planned or unanticipated bumps happened along the way. However, it's the experiences that matter..and all are! Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm!